A federal judge in District Court — Trump pick Carl Nichols — has dismissed a lawsuit from former top Trump aide Mark Meadows challenging demands from the House committee investigating the Capitol riot for testimony and documents. Nichols has also dealt with other court matters involving prominent Trump goons. He sentenced Steve Bannon to four months in prison for contempt, although he delayed the sentence, pending appeals.
Meadows, who provided a limited set of materials to the committee before ending his cooperation and never testified, could appeal, potentially meaning the court stand-off over his testimony would stretch beyond when the committee remains actually operational. It’s evidently set to end with this Congress, with both of its Republican members exiting Congress altogether. In the meantime, it’s another piece of judicial support for the committee’s probe, which Nichols upheld in this case on the basis of the portion of the U.S. Constitution known as the Speech or Debate Clause, which protects members of Congress from certain forms of legal wrangling connected to their work. It’s the same clause Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has cited in his ongoing push to stop his testimony in the criminal investigation by Georgia’s Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis into pro-Trump election meddling after the 2020 election.
The riot committee didn’t point to the Speech or Debate Clause in its arguments on which Nichols ruled, although the judge said he was obliged to deal with the constitutionally derived protections anyway. The committee’s side pushed a more direct challenge to executive privilege claims that were raised. Per POLITICO, they wanted Nichols “to issue a more sweeping ruling on Trump’s efforts to assert executive privilege over Meadows’ testimony.” “Even if Trump had the ability to assert privilege, the panel contended that its need for Meadows’ testimony was easily great enough to overcome that assertion,” POLITICO notes.
“The record makes clear that the challenged subpoenas are protected legislative acts,” Nichols concluded. Meadows was closely involved in many of the efforts after the last election to secure an additional term for Trump despite his loss. For example, he helped with setting up a call between Trump, the top elections official in Georgia, and others in which the then-president pushed for action on the 2020 election results. Some of what Meadows already provided the committee has proven fruitful, including thousands of texts showing interest by — among a slew of others — Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who’s on the ballot this year but otherwise might have gone less scrutinized in this context, in helping overturn the results. Lee was supportive of state legislators throwing their weight behind so-called alternate slates of pro-Trump electors in states Biden won, despite the lack of legal legitimacy.