Merrick Garland Says Mark Meadows Must Comply With Subpoena

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A Justice Department court filing from this past Friday submitted after a request from federal Judge Carl Nichols for input concluded the House committee investigating the Capitol riot was in the right in subpoenaing documents and information from Mark Meadows, Trump’s ex-chief of staff.

Meadows initially complied in part with the panel’s demands, but he then stopped. Meadows filed a civil lawsuit late last year in an attempt to stop the riot committee’s push, and that lawsuit provided the context for the new Justice Department filing. No matter the department’s position, it seems to simply constitute another perspective over which to deliberate as Meadows’s case proceeds — the department doesn’t have the final word. The department’s filing said former advisers to former presidents still possessed some level of immunity from Congressional subpoenas — a level of immunity the department outlined was not absolute — but the department concluded the riot committee adequately made its case.

“When a congressional committee demands testimony from an immediate presidential adviser after the President’s term of office has ended, the relevant constitutional concerns are lessened,” the filing asserts. “Accordingly, the Department does not believe that the absolute testimonial immunity applicable to such an adviser continues after the President leaves office. But the constitutional concerns continue to have force.” Getting into more specifics, it adds: “In the Department of Justice’s view, a form of qualified immunity is appropriate to address those continuing and significant separation-of-powers concerns.” The Department of Justice cited factors including recent public testimony to the riot panel from former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson in concluding the committee adequately overcame lingering privilege protections available here. Hutchinson worked directly with Meadows.

Notably, Justice Department personnel declined to prosecute Meadows despite the full House referring him for prosecution on contempt of Congress after his refusal to fully cooperate with the riot committee. The full reasoning behind the department decision against prosecuting the ex-aide isn’t publicly available. Another Trump goon referred for prosecution on contempt of Congress — Steve Bannon — is slated to go to trial this week after losing an attempt to get that trial delayed until October. Nichols is also dealing with Bannon’s trial, which could result in jail-time in the event of a guilty verdict, and amid pre-trial preparations, Nichols recently concluded Bannon wouldn’t be able to use executive privilege arguments in his defense at trial. The judge also said the former Trump aide — who was not on staff at the White House or on the Trump team at the time of the Capitol riot — can’t point to certain internal Justice Department findings alleged to boost his defense. Read more here.