It was about a month ago when we learned that special counsel Jack Smith, as part of his criminal investigations into Donald Trump, was starting to issue grand jury subpoenas to some highly prominent figures, including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. Not surprisingly, this led to the latest fight over executive privilege.
Also not surprisingly, prosecutors appear to be winning that fight. ABC News reported today:
A federal judge has rejected former President Donald Trump’s claims of executive privilege and has ordered Mark Meadows and other former top aides to testify before a federal grand jury investigating Trump’s efforts to overturn the election leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, multiple sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News.
According to the report, which has not been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News, U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell rejected the former president’s executive privilege claim — and not just for Meadows.
The list also included former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, former national security adviser Robert O’Brien, former aide Stephen Miller, former deputy chief of staff and social media director Dan Scavino, as well as White House aides Nick Luna and John McEntee, and Ken Cuccinelli, a former top official in the Department of Homeland Security. CNN and The Hill ran related reports today with the same details.
When my MSNBC colleague Jordan Rubin explained why these executive privilege claims would likely fall short, he was right.
In case this isn’t obvious, Trump is facing a variety of unrelated criminal investigations, but in this instance, we’re talking specifically about the special counsel’s scrutiny of Jan. 6 and efforts to overturn the 2020 election results. I’m emphasizing this in part because Meadows, among others, also invoked executive privilege in the hopes of avoiding questions in Fulton County, Georgia, as part of the investigation into Trump’s alleged election interference there — and the efforts to get out of answering questions didn’t work there, either.
Time will tell what Meadows will say, assuming the judge’s order withstands appeals, but there’s no doubt that the former White House chief of staff is a uniquely important figure in the investigation into Trump’s efforts to claim illegitimate power after his 2020 defeat. Indeed, by some measures, Meadows is among the most important witnesses in the entire case.
It was Meadows who was with Trump in the Oval Office during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. It was Meadows who was involved in the fake electors scheme. It was Meadows who was in frequent communication with far-right GOP lawmakers about efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. It was Meadows who allegedly — and quite literally — set fire to documents in a White House fireplace, several times, after having important post-election meetings.
It was also Meadows who reportedly told Cassidy Hutchinson, one of his top aides, that “things might get real, real bad” on Jan. 6.
And now, if the reporting today is correct, it’s Meadows — among others — who’ve been told it’s time to talk to federal prosecutors under oath. Watch this space.
This post updates our previous related coverage.