Spotlight on Trump aide Mark Meadows in Capitol riot probe

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Mark Meadows speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington October 25, 2018. — Reuters pic
Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Mark Meadows speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington October 25, 2018. — Reuters pic

WASHINGTON, Dec 2 — A new book and a pledge to testify by former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows could heat up the investigation of ex-president Donald Trump over the storming of the US Capitol.

The former Republican congressman was in the thick of Trump’s fight to reverse his November 2020 election defeat by Democrat Joe Biden, which led to the violent January 6 assault.

After weeks of resisting, on Tuesday Meadows agreed to testify to the House committee investigating the attack.

The panel wants to know how closely Trump and his staff, including Meadows, may have coordinated with the mob of supporters that invaded Congress and temporarily blocked legislators from certifying Biden’s victory.

Meadows stayed in the background during his time in the White House, but the investigation, and his soon-to-be-released book The Chief’s Chief, has now placed him in the spotlight.

The book made news Wednesday when The Guardian, which obtained a copy pre-publication, said Meadows revealed that Trump had tested positive for Covid-19 just three days before his September 29, 2020 election debate with Biden. 

Trump, who was hospitalised just days later — on October 2 — for a serious coronavirus case, stiffly denied in a statement that he had Covid before or during the debate.

Conspiracy theories

A longtime real-estate developer in North Carolina, the France-born Meadows served in the House of Representatives from 2013 to 2020.

There the 62-year-old made a name for himself as a founder of the Freedom Caucus, Republican insurgents who stridently demanded spending cuts and an immigration halt, and used their power to oust party moderates.

The group strongly backed Trump, and in March 2020, facing an uphill battle for reelection, the president made Meadows his chief of staff.

Even as he stood in the background politically, Meadows was a strident defender of his boss, actively working after Trump’s November defeat to help “overturn the results of the 2020 election or prevent the election’s certification,” the committee said.

Those efforts, according to media reports, included pushing conspiracy theories about the CIA’s alleged changing votes for Trump to Biden, and promoting Trump’s January 6 plan to have the certification of Biden as election winner blocked.

The committee said it wants to know how Meadows liaised with organisers of the White House rally by Trump supporters that preceded the storming of the Capitol.

Will testify, but ...

Since the committee subpoenaed him on September 23, Meadows had resisted testifying, claiming protection under executive privilege, which guards secrecy for presidents and their close staff.

Trump has invoked presidential executive privilege in a bid to avoid having to turn over documents requested by the committee and to block aides from answering questions.

But after another Trump political advisor, Stephen Bannon, was charged with contempt of Congress and then arrested for refusing to testify, Meadows avoided such a clash by agreeing to appear.

Yet Meadows’ attorney George Terwilliger indicated Tuesday his client still did not want to answer questions that would conflict with Trump’s privilege claim.

Meadows has mostly avoided talking about the January 6 attack, and remains a staunch defender of Trump.

On November 18 he went on Bannon’s podcast, The War Room, bashing Biden and saying he would like to see Trump return as the speaker of the House of Representatives, replacing powerful Democrat Nancy Pelosi.

“I would love to see the gavel go from Nancy Pelosi to Donald Trump. You talk about melting down — people would go crazy,” he said. — AFP

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