The select panel must now decide whether to hold Meadows in contempt of Congress and seek potential criminal charges against him. A spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The rupture between Meadows and the committee may have been inevitable. In the letter, Terwilliger indicated that Meadows had only been willing to appear voluntarily — not under the compulsion of a subpoena — and would only discuss “non-privileged matters.” The committee had never acceded publicly to those terms, continuing to insist that Meadows was appearing under subpoena and could be asked questions on any topic.
“Now actions by the Select Committee have made such an appearance untenable,” Terwilliger wrote. “In short, we now have every indication from the information supplied to us last Friday — upon which Mr. Meadows could expect to be questioned — that the Select Committee has no intention of respecting boundaries concerning Executive Privilege.”
Terwilliger also criticized Thompson for suggesting that another witness’ decision to assert his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination is “tantamount to an admission of guilt.”
“As a result of careful and deliberate consideration of these factors, we now must decline the opportunity to appear voluntarily for a deposition,” Terwilliger said.
He indicated that Meadows would still consider submitting written answers to the committee’s questions.
Meadows’ about-face follows weeks of seesawing talks with the committee. It also arrives amid frustration inside Trump world about Meadows’ public discussion of Trump’s positive Covid test during the 2020 campaign. Meadows described Trump’s health in stark and worrying terms, noting his diminished oxygen levels and weakness as he battled the virus.
Meadows revealed in a TV appearance Tuesday that his decision was partly motivated by the fact that the Jan. 6 committee had subpoenaed his private phone records.
“We found that in spite of our cooperation and sharing documents with them, unbeknownst to us, without even a courtesy call, issued a subpoena to third-party carrier trying to get information,” Meadows said on Real America’s Voice, “and at this point, we feel like it’s best that we just continue to honor the executive privilege, and it looks like the courts are going to have to weigh in on this.”
The Jan. 6 panel’s chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), threatened to hold Meadows in contempt of Congress last month, shortly after Terwilliger took to The Washington Post to blast the Jan. 6 panel for refusing to acknowledge his client’s assertions of executive privilege shielding his interactions with Trump.
The committee has emphasized that only President Joe Biden has the authority to assert privilege to protect executive branch communications. But Biden has indicated he won’t do so in Meadows’ case because he considers the Jan. 6 investigation crucial to national security.
Thompson and Terwilliger took a softer tone last week, revealing that they had reached a tentative cooperation deal. Meadows provided thousands of emails to the panel and planned to appear for a deposition this week. Thompson repeatedly hailed Meadows’ cooperation as he sought to punish other witnesses for refusing to cooperate.
“A former White House chief of staff is even cooperating with our probe,” Thompson said last week as he discussed a push to hold former DOJ official Jeffrey Clark in contempt of Congress.