A federal judge on Friday asked the Justice Department to explain whether former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows is immune from a congressional subpoena issued by the House committee responsible for to investigate the January 6 attack.
U.S. District Judge Carl J. Nichols’ investigation comes just over three weeks after the department said it would not prosecute Meadows for contempt of Congress despite being dismissed by the House on criminal charges for defying the assignment of the select committee.
Nichols is presiding over a civil lawsuit Meadows filed against the select committee late last year to challenge his subpoena. His brief order issued Thursday appears to give the department the option to decline to comment on the matter.
The judge invited the DOJ to provide “its view as to whether the plaintiff is entitled to absolute or qualified testimonial immunity from the subpoena at issue in this case.”
If the department chooses to intervene, it will provide the first public explanation of why it chose to spare Meadows from prosecution, while filing criminal contempt charges against former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro. and Steve Bannon, who had once served in the White House. former President Trump’s strategist. The Justice Department also declined to indict Trump’s social media guru Dan Scavino for defying a select committee subpoena.
In his lawsuit against the committee, Meadows cited DOJ legal advisory memoranda from the 1980s that have consistently held that senior White House officials enjoy absolute immunity from congressional subpoenas.
With the select committee in the middle of its round of public hearings and appearing to wrap up its investigation, it’s unclear whether lawmakers will be able to get anything of value out of Meadows at this point.
But the DOJ’s refusal to indict Meadows added to the tension between the two branches’ respective Jan. 6 investigations. Earlier this month, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), chair and vice chair of the select committee, criticized the DOJ for its decision.
“While today’s indictment of Peter Navarro was the correct move by the Department of Justice, we find the decision to award Mark Meadows and Dan Scavino for their continued attack on the rule of law puzzling,” they said. Thompson and Cheney in a joint statement on June 3. . “Mr. Meadows and Mr. Scavino undoubtedly have relevant knowledge about President Trump’s role in the effort to overturn the 2020 election and the events of January 6. We hope the department will provide further clarity on this matter.
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