Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows sued House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the select committee investigating the January 6 attack as he faces potential contempt proceedings for refusing to comply with the investigation. File Photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 8 (UPI) -- Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Wednesday sued House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Jan. 6 select committee after the panel said it plans to move forward with criminal contempt proceedings against him for failing to comply with a subpoena.
In a civil complaint, attorneys for Meadows said the House investigative committee does not have legal authority to subpoena him or obtain his phone records through a third party.
"Congress has no freestanding power to issue subpoenas. Instead, its investigative powers are ancillary to its legislative authority," the lawsuit states. "Because of this tie between the investigative and legislative powers, Congress may only issue subpoenas that serve a valid legislative purpose."
The suit states that Pelosi, D-Calif., approved and ratified the subpoenas issued to Meadows and Verizon, which notified him Saturday it would comply with the order to provide the committee with his phone records from October 2020 through January 2021.
"Mr. Meadows believed that the select committee would act in good faith and in accordance with their agreement that he appear for a voluntary deposition on issues outside the scope of executive privilege, until on December 4, 2021, he was blindsided by a letter from Verizon Wireless, the carrier for his previous personal cell phone," the filing states.
Meadows also cited executive privilege granted to him by former President Donald Trump, and said courts must rule on President Joe Biden's decision not to exert executive privilege.
"Mr. Meadows, a witness, has been put in the untenable position of choosing between conflicting privilege claims that are of constitutional origin and dimension and having to either risk enforcement of the subpoena issued to him, not merely by the House of Representatives, but through actions by the Executive and Judicial Branches, or, alternatively, unilaterally abandoning the former president's claims of privileges and immunities," the suit states.
The select committee had previously said it would move forward with contempt proceedings against Meadows after his attorneys on Tuesday said he would no longer comply with its probe.
In a letter late Tuesday, select committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., wrote that there was "no legitimate legal basis" for Meadows to refuse to cooperate and answer questions about the documents he already provided to lawmakers, including a text message exchange in which he discussed appointing alternate electors in certain states in a bid to keep Trump in power.
"The select committee is left with no choice but to advance contempt proceedings and recommend that the body in which Mr. Meadows once served refer him for criminal prosecution," Thompson wrote.