Fri. Dec 9th, 2022

WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit by Mark Meadows, the final chief of staff for President Donald J. Trump, that sought to block two subpoenas from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, including one to Verizon for Mr. Meadows’s phone and text data.

In throwing out the suit, Judge Carl J. Nichols of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that the committee’s subpoenas were covered under the Constitution’s speech or debate clause, which he said protected them from civil suits as legislative actions.

The decision is the latest chapter in a nearly yearlong legal battle between Mr. Meadows and the committee, but it is unlikely to be the final one that delivers investigators what they have been seeking.

Mr. Meadows can appeal. (His lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.) And with the committee almost certain to shut down if Republicans win control of the House, as expected, in next week’s elections, the panel is most likely running out of time.

Despite his decision, the judge said a number of matters raised by Mr. Meadows remained unsettled, including whether a senior aide to a former president can be compelled to testify before Congress; whether a former president can validly assert executive privilege; and whether a sitting president may override a former president’s claim of privilege.

Mr. Meadows was deeply involved in planning efforts to subvert the results of the 2020 election, repeatedly pushing the Justice Department to investigate unfounded conspiracy theories, strategizing with members of Congress and communicating with organizers of the rally on Jan. 6, 2021, that preceded the attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

Mr. Meadows filed suit in December against Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the committee, accusing the panel of issuing “two overly broad and unduly burdensome subpoenas” for his records.

Before filing suit, Mr. Meadows turned over thousands of pages of documents to the committee, including more than 2,300 text messages that served as key evidence for jump-starting the panel’s investigation. But he refused the committee’s subpoena to sit for a deposition and withheld more than 1,000 documents he said were covered by executive privilege.

He also objected to the committee’s subpoena to Verizon, which sought metadata from one of his phones but not the content of any communications.

In response, the committee recommended that Mr. Meadows, a former congressman from North Carolina, be charged with contempt of Congress.


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But after the House sent a referral against Mr. Meadows to the Justice Department, the agency declined to prosecute the case, making it all but certain Mr. Meadows would never testify.

In a related matter, Justice Elena Kagan last week temporarily blocked a similar subpoena from the committee for the phone records of Kelli Ward, the chairwoman of the Arizona Republican Party.

In Ms. Ward’s case, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, rejected a request to block a subpoena seeking metadata information about calls between November 2020 and January 2021.

The subpoena did not seek information about the content or location of the calls.

Ms. Ward argued that the subpoena infringed on her First Amendment right to freedom of association.

Inquiries into efforts to subvert the 2020 presidential election have given rise to a wide array of litigation, but only a few cases have reached the Supreme Court.

In January, the Supreme Court refused a request from Mr. Trump to block the release of White House records concerning the Jan. 6 attack, effectively rejecting Mr. Trump’s claim of executive privilege and clearing the way for the House committee to start receiving the documents hours later.

Only Justice Clarence Thomas dissented as the justices let stand an appeals court ruling that the need for a full accounting of the attack outweighed Mr. Trump’s desire to maintain the confidentiality of internal White House communications.



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