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Rules Committee Considers Meadows Contempt of Congress Resolution. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired December 14, 2021 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): -- there are questions we need to ask about what their plans were, what plans they were making on January 6th, what plans they were making with respect to the vice president, what plans they were making to have the vice president to get outside legal counsel, to tell the vice president that he could, in fact, decide not to count certain electoral votes.
The American people deserve to know all of the steps that Donald Trump, that those around him, that his campaign were taking in an effort to change the results, to overturn the election, to delay the electoral count.
And, again, the messages that Mr. Meadows has turned over are nonprivileged and he has a duty under --
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Everyone agrees to that. No one --
RASKIN: So the executive privilege argument, as the chairman said, is pretty much a distraction at this point because we're talking about questioning him about things that he's already produced.
CHENEY: He has a duty under the subpoena. He also has a duty as an American citizen and he has a duty as somebody who served in a position of public trust, who swore an oath under God for our Constitution. He's got a duty to come forth and disclose what he knows.
RASKIN: Thank you.
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D), CHAIR, U.S. HOUSE SELECT COMMITTEE ON JANUARY 6 ATTACK: And the vice chair is absolutely correct.
The other thing, Mr. Raskin, is this information was provided by Mr. Meadows to the committee. And what we glean from that information was enough that we needed to have him, in person, to come and explain the information that he had provided to the committee, of which he's denied (sic) to come. RASKIN: Let me ask you about it. And I'll close with this question,
Mr. Chairman. You know, there's so much cynicism now in the public. Some people would invite us to believe that everything that happens in our politics is just lies, disinformation, fake news.
What's the importance of the committee actually trying to establish the facts of what took place?
THOMPSON: Well, I think absolutely. That's the core objective of the committee, is to get to the facts and circumstances that we can prove.
Now I think part of what you just read, why would all these people text the President of the United States and say, you have to stop these people?
There's some connection between those individuals doing the texts and who they're doing it to. And our committee needs to figure out in our investigation what those connections are. And the only way we can prove and get to those connections is have the people who are communicating with that to come before the committee.
RASKIN: You mean they weren't texting you to call it off?
THOMPSON: No, sir.
RASKIN: Were they texting you, Ms. Cheney, to call it off?
CHENEY: They were not.
RASKIN: Seemed to just go to Mr. Meadows and the president.
I yield back to you --
REP. JAMES MCGOVERN (D-MA): Ms. Scanlon.
REP. MARY GAY SCANLON (D-PA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And I do want to express our continued appreciation members of the January 6th committee for your tenacity, your steadfast patriotism and courage and your focus on the actual issues before the committee, which would be, why was there an attack on this building, a physical attack on this building, a physical attack on the Constitution on January 6th?
And how can we prevent such attacks in the future?
And your focus, despite the intense pressure to block your inquiries and attempts to distract, to denigrate the severity of what happened, to deflect, to throw dust in our eyes, I think is what the chairman said.
Chairman McGovern referenced the mental gymnastics required to support Mr. Meadows' claim that he doesn't have to testify in response to a congressional subpoena.
He's claiming he doesn't have to testify because of executive privilege, that everything he knows was privileged in some manner. And that's simply not true, I think as you've laid out quite compelling through.
It's a distraction because there's no executive privilege from talking about conversations with people who are not part of the government. There's no executive privilege for conversations about political as opposed to official activity. There's no executive privilege for crimes against the country. So all of this is just a distraction.
But also, Mr. Meadows has already admitted that much of what he knows is not privileged. He's turned over these thousands of pages of documents.
He's said that privilege protects his conversations with the former president at the same time as he has embarked upon a tour to sell books about his conversations with the former president.
And it's so disappointing, so profoundly disappointing that our colleagues across the aisle are engaging in the same mental gymnastics to assist this stonewalling, to assist this coverup.
SCANLON: Last week, we were told that it was premature to start contempt proceedings against Mr. Clark because he had not yet filed a suit to quash the subpoena against him.
Today it's been suggested that it's too late to start contempt proceedings against Mr. Meadows because he has already filed a lawsuit to try to quash his subpoena.
As the vice chair suggested, they're flipping the burden of proof with respect to who has to claim privilege here. They're suggesting that the January 6th committee has to guess what elements of unprivileged communication Mr. Meadows has, when it's actually his duty to carve out the areas that he can't testify about.
So it's all completely through the looking glass at this time. And again, thank you for your patience and for forging ahead on all of this.
I think it's increasingly clear that the real and very present danger before this Congress and the country is the ongoing threat to our Constitution and the rule of law posed by the lack of a common understanding, which this committee is tasked with getting, about what happened on January 6th; and accountability, which thus far has been lacking for why that happened.
It appears that Mr. Meadows is more afraid of the former president than he is of defying a legitimate subpoena. And that's simply unacceptable. And the fact that some of our colleagues appear similarly frightened of the former president, as opposed to standing up for the Constitution, is also frightening.
The fact that any member of Congress is willing to excuse or support a fiction that this was not a serious assault on our Constitution or that there's any legitimate reason to defy these subpoenas is a fair measure of the threat to our democracy at this point.
So again, I commend your efforts. I look forward to supporting this rule and the resolution and I would yield back.
MCGOVERN: Thank you.
REP. JOSEPH MORELLE (D-NY): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And I want to continue to add my thanks to both of you and to the members of the committee for the extraordinary work that you are doing.
You know, I am a bit of a fan of old movies. And I think back to one of my favorite films, is "Gaslight," the 1944 version.
MORELLE: Charles Boyer tries to convince his wife, played by Ingrid Bergman, that she's insane. He dims the gaslights to make her think she's hallucinating. And that film gave rise to the term "gaslighting," the act of making someone question their own reality.
And I can't help but think that American citizens are victims of gaslighting, that we are literally questioning -- many Americans are questioning the reality of what they witnessed with their own eyes in real time on January 6th.
And I know that members have described the attack on the building, the attack on us as members of Congress but, although those are obviously very important, it was more an attack literally on the Constitution of the United States and the republic that helps define it.
And not only are we asking Americans, some of us asking Americans to ignore what they saw but as my colleagues have pointed out, the contemporary accounts of people who experienced the events, who wrote text messages, who, in the days following, condemned what had happened and, yet today, seem to have had this amnesia about what had happened or now frame it in ways that are completely divergent from what they did in their accounts in the days and -- or the hours and days that followed the attack.
And I agree also with my colleagues; I think these are the darkest days America has faced and that our republic is in grave danger. And the work that you're doing will hopefully -- hopefully, I pray -- help save this republic.
I also want to say this. This is completely a digression and this is Joe Morelle's opinion. I don't know that (INAUDIBLE) written about it (ph).
I find it highly inappropriate, highly inappropriate that a White House chief of staff would publish a tell-all book within 10 months of leaving office, just as a complete aside. I find that so indecent and without honor that I don't -- it makes me question so many things about what we do.
MORELLE: And I would hope there's no precedent for that in the future. But it is, however, insightful in many ways and what was going on at the time. So maybe while I find it indecent that you would do it for financial gain, it does give us a window on what happened.
And I also find it mystifying that Mr. Meadows would tell all in a way to gain financially for himself but isn't prepared to testify in front of Congress in order to save the country and the republic.
But I wanted to go back -- and I certainly don't in any way want to suggest that my good friend from Oklahoma meant this.
But the notion of sort of bringing up the number of texts and documents that Mr. Meadows submitted to the committee does not obviate the need -- and I think the vice chair said this -- to come and testify.
It's not as though in a criminal proceeding or a subpoena by Congress that people can individually just choose, well, I'll submit documents and then -- I'm not suggesting that the gentleman was suggesting this -- but it would lead someone to question, is it necessary then for me to testify when I'm called?
I mean, will just the submission of documents suffice?
Is that -- and I do think the vice chair answered this. So you know, you can certainly feel free to comment further.
But there's clearly questions that arise when you get the documents. You want -- and I assume this is the whole point of asking someone to testify in any place where the subpoena is appropriate, to answer questions about the documents submitted.
Is that not what the whole point of this is?
THOMPSON: Well, I mean, absolutely. And for us to take those documents and develop the next line of questioning in person of that individual, of which Mr. Meadows failed to do, follow through.
MORELLE: And I assume -- I haven't seen the documents in question, the texts and the emails and other documents -- but I assume they have given rise to probably hundreds of additional questions, where the members of the committee and the Congress and the American public should have the right to have the questions about those documents answered.
And I say -- I don't know, Madam Vice Chair, if you want to comment on that.
CHENEY: Yes. Absolutely, you're right, Mr. Morelle. And you also mentioned Mr. Meadows' book. And as the committee described last night, there are many instances in Mr. Meadows' book, where he talks about issues that are of great interest to us.
Including, for example, he recounts a conversation that he had with former president Trump right after the former president urged people to march to the Capitol and told people he would be with them in that march.
And Mr. Meadows recounts his conversation after that. So of course, details like that that he is recounting in a book but then refusing to answer questions before Congress about, there are legitimate questions that he's obligated to appear to provide responses. And failing to do so puts him in contempt.
MORELLE: And I do find --- I, you know, continue to scratch my head about the notion that you would author a book on the subject, sell it to the American public and not be willing to testify to Congress about the comments you made in the book.
It's really astonishing to me that we're here. And I also -- and I -- my colleagues have raised this -- it's almost as though -- and I appreciate what people have said and I don't want to engage in repeating this.
But it's almost as though if you engage in treasonous activities in plain sight, and with many of your colleagues gathered around you to engage in that treasonous activity, it's almost as though you think that that's OK, that somehow doing it in plain sight somehow allows that to be an OK thing.
That -- and I suppose that the precedent that my colleagues have mentioned, that if you -- if a future president decides that he's going to be or she is going to be protected by just invoking privilege but engages in a pretty wide conspiracy against the United States government and, by extension, the people of the United States, that that would somehow be OK.
I mean, I guess you would avoid all accountability if you follow this to its logical conclusion, which I find honestly astonishing. And I'll repeat again, I think these are the darkest days. And I think that it bears repeating by all of us over and over and over again to our constituents and to the American public that this may be difficult.
MORELLE: This may be, in some ways, just ugly to hear about, to see, to investigate. But it is vital. It goes to the foundation and the core of what we believe as Americans.
And so I want to again thank you for your work, your service to the country. I can think of nothing more important facing the Congress right now.
With that, I'll yield back, Mr. Chair.
MCGOVERN: Thank you.
Ms. Ross. REP. DEBORAH ROSS (D-NC): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And I want to just thank the chair and the vice chair again. And I want to point something out about this commission that dawned on me because of something I read over the weekend.
You know, the American public is paying attention to what we're doing here in the Rules Committee and on the floor because we now have three people who -- let's just be honest -- were at the heart of this conspiracy, who are refusing to allow Congress to hold them accountable for their actions.
But there are so many people who have testified before this commission, provided honest testimony, despite whatever political or financial or occupational backlash they might have.
And I know it's not in our jurisdiction but I would love to have a list of those brave men and women who put their country first, as your commission has. And so I want to thank you for that.
It is unfortunate we're having to be here now for the third time to consider lawless actions on behalf of people at the heart of this matter, who will not put country first and who are not taking the -- excuse me -- taking the laws of this country seriously.
And we know that the framers took great care to ensure that the laws of this nation would apply to everyone, regardless of political position.
As Mr. Raskin said, we didn't want to have a monarchy. But former congressman and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has shamefully refused to comply with a duly authorized subpoena issued by your committee.
And he has done this without even claiming that some of the things he doesn't want to testify to are privileged, because we know they are not.
And the bottom line is this: we're a nation of laws. We're not a nation of kings and vassals, as Mr. Raskin has said. Every citizen in this country has got to recognize that the law applies equally to them. It is our duty here to make sure that happens and do that on the House floor.
And so for the sake of our democracy, I urge my colleagues to support the rule, the underlying resolution.
And I yield back.
MCGOVERN: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE). MCGOVERN: All right.
REP. JOE NEGUSE (D-CO): Sorry, my apologies, Mr. Chairman.
I just again would echo the sentiments of my colleagues on my side of the aisle. I certainly think that they have said it well.
And express my gratitude to Vice Chair Cheney and to Chairman Thompson for their collective leadership. This has clearly been a contentious process and one that has required, I think, poise and decisiveness and ultimately, above all else, a commitment to getting to the truth about what happened on January 6th and exposing those facts to the American public.
And so I want to say thank you to both of you. You have done a tremendous job. And I think the way in which you have worked with each other in ensuring that the committee's business is achieved is something for everyone in our country to follow and to emulate.
So with that, I yield back.
MCGOVERN: Thank you.
I just want to make a couple of minutes of closing remarks just for the record. I think it's notable that, as of the start of the meeting, that there has been zero mentions on FOX News of their hosts' texts to Mark Meadows, the texts that Ms. Cheney read last night, at the Select Committee's meeting, not one.
And that's despite the fact that one of the hosts that texted him was live on the air all morning. I can't account for what was said while we were in this hearing. But look, I'm glad that these hosts privately pushed to stop the violence on that awful day. But what I'm upset about is that they've -- is what they've publicly said ever since.
MCGOVERN: That what happened that day somehow wasn't the fault of Donald Trump and his allies, that what happened really wasn't a big deal, that all of this is being overhyped.
This would be a good time for these hosts to use their platforms to tell the American people the truth. Just like they were privately texting Mark Meadows the truth on that terrible day, that the president's inaction hurt us all, that he should have done more, that he should have pushed to stop the violence.
But I have to say that their silence is deafening.
I just also want to remind my colleagues what one lawmaker texted to Mark Meadows after the January 6th attack, and let me quote, "Yesterday was a terrible day. We tried everything we could in our objection to the six states.
"I'm sorry that nothing worked," end quote.
Now just think about that. A lawmaker is apologizing for failing to steal an election, for failing to overturn the will of the American people.
I mean, is that really what our politics have become?
Destroy democracy if your team is not victorious. And I'm really worried that some of what we are hearing from the other side is just an attempt to run out the clock, to keep things in the dark so that the truth stays buried.
So we're here today to get to the truth and that's what this is all about.
And the final thing I want to say is, I was here on that terrible day on September 11th. And I had my share of disagreements with the Bush- Cheney administration.
But on that terrible day, in the aftermath of that horrific attack, Democrats and Republicans came together, stood on the steps of the Capitol, sang "God Bless America" and to -- tried to show the citizens of this country that we are one and to show the world we're united in our outrage against the terrible violence that we just experienced.
And I thought after January 6th, what we all witnessed, what I witnessed, one of the last people off the House floor, I saw these people face-to-face, I thought, when that was all over with, something similar would happen, that we would come together and all speak as one in our condemnation of what happened here and all be committed to getting the truth.
That didn't happen. You know, and the lack of curiosity, the lack of outrage, the rationalizations of why we shouldn't be compelling people to testify is stunning to me. A number of people have said it and I know you have as well, that, you know, this is a -- we're at a crossroads.
I mean, our democracy is being threatened. And this is serious. And as I said at the beginning, coups very rarely succeed the first go- around. But they oftentimes do the second time around.
So this is a -- this really, if there's ever a moment to kind of be above politics, it's now. And I get it. Maybe if all the primaries were out of the way and we were having this discussion, maybe it would be a little bit more balanced.
But we have an obligation to get this right.
And I want to commend the chair and the vice chair for their courage in doing this work. You know, I think history will reflect well on what you were trying to do here. And we want you to succeed.
So with that, no other -- no other people wanting to ask questions, you're free to go. And thank you so much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Kate Bolduan, you've been watching the House Rules Committee, considering a criminal contempt of Congress resolution for ex-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.
The full House is expected to vote later today as the Rules Committee continues. This is the panel investigating the insurrection; voted unanimously last night to recommend that Meadows be held in criminal contempt for refusing to testify.
In doing so, revealed real-time accounts of what was happening within Donald Trump's inner circle while the riot was unfolding on January 6th -- text messages from FOX News hosts, unnamed Republican lawmakers, even Donald Trump's son. Joining me right now from what we heard today and last night, CNN chief political correspondent, co- anchor of "STATE OF THE UNION," Dana Bash and CNN's chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.
BOLDUAN: Dana, even today we're learning new things were revealed in what we were just watch play out over the last period of time in this Rules Committee testimony.
What sticks out to you?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that Liz Cheney once again used this platform, which generally, as you know, is a very mundane process, the Rules Committee.
She used it to reveal something new, which is that, according to her, a currently sitting member of Congress, according to these texts that they got, was trying to coordinate or being asked to coordinate with the then Justice Department official Justin (sic) Clark to overturn the election.
So one of their colleagues, who, as she said, is still serving. And again, there were so many rumors after the January 6th insurrection about whether there were members who were truly involved in the actual attack, we don't know what they have on that still.
But the revelation that, when it comes to what the Trump administration was trying to do, to overturn the freely and fairly elected -- election, that a sitting member of Congress was involved in that, is new and noteworthy.
And let me just say that this is -- this was among the most compelling of hearings that I have witnessed in quite some time, because there was such a robust general discussion and outrage and bewilderment about the fact that this is not a unanimous -- that they're not unanimously disgusted by what happened. And that still continues to be the case.
You saw the Republican congressman, Burgess, Kate, again, still trying to whitewash, saying, well, there were protests before the Affordable Care Act. And members trying to stop him in his tracks, saying, give me a break, you cannot compare the two.
That continues. And that is why these revelations about what the feeling was real-time about the concern by Republican members and FOX News hosts is so important.
And because, Jeffrey, this is a continuation, this discussion this morning we saw play out from last night, where it was revealed that text messages from FOX hosts, text messages from other lawmakers, unidentified, were pleading for help in real-time to Mark Meadows to do something, anything, to get Donald Trump to stop it.
Also including even Donald Trump Jr., which Liz Cheney named. Let me remind folks of that moment from Liz Cheney last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: Donald Trump Jr. texted again and again, urging action by the president, quote, "We need an Oval Office address. He has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand," end quote.
But hours passed without necessary action by the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Take that, in addition to what we heard this morning, Jeffrey.
What does this change about the investigation in this case?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it suggests that Donald Trump was in charge of this insurrection. Donald Trump Jr. clearly thought that his father, the president of the United States, was in charge of this riot.
The FOX News anchors thought that Donald Trump Sr. was in charge of this riot. Maybe that's because Donald Trump was in charge of this insurrection.
The question that this committee has to address is, why was there a riot and a near insurrection at the Capitol of the United States?
These people who know Donald Trump, the former president, very well, seemed to think he was the person in charge. He was the person who ordered the attack on the Capitol. That's the implication left by their questions.
And any serious investigation would ask the people, well, why did you think that?
What happened in the moments and hours leading up to the attack on the Capitol that led you to believe Donald Trump was in charge of it? That's an incredibly important question. Mark Meadows is one of the central people who might have an answer to that question. But he's not answering and that's why they're finding him in contempt.
BOLDUAN: Dana, you alluded to this.
What do you make of the fact that it was Liz Cheney who read these text messages, Liz Cheney who is putting herself out there like this?
BASH: First of all, let me say, on the Don Jr. text, honestly I felt like I was listening to the script of an episode of "Succession," where one of the sons is trying to get in touch with the head of the family through an intermediary.
How about picking up the phone and calling your father?
I mean, what's that about?