Mark Meadows, Donald Trump's fourth White House chief of staff, has gone back and forth on his willingness to cooperate with the investigation into the Jan. 6 attack. As of this morning, his on-again, off-again cooperation is off again. NBC News reported:
Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Tuesday that he is no longer cooperating with the House select committee's probe into the Jan. 6 riot. In an interview on the streaming news network Real America's Voice, Meadows said the committee intended to ask about items that he considers protected by executive privilege.
After complaining that investigators subpoenaed "a third-party carrier trying to get information," the North Carolina Republican concluded, "[A]t this point, we, we feel like it's best that we just continue to honor the executive privilege and it looks like the courts are going to have to weigh in on this."
Let's review how we arrived at this point, because of all the key Jan. 6 witnesses, Meadows' story might very be the strangest.
When Trump tried to hold onto power despite losing the 2020 election, he relied heavily on Meadows, who played an especially pernicious role. It was Meadows, for example, who made a surprise visit to Georgia shortly before Christmas, checking in on an election audit after his boss leaned on local officials to help him. Around the same time, Trump's right-hand aide repeatedly pushed federal law enforcement to investigate unfounded conspiracy theories — some of which were quite weird — and alerted then-Vice President Mike Pence's office to bonkers strategies to overturn the election results.
With this in mind, it wasn't too surprising when the bipartisan House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack issued its first batch of subpoenas in September, and Meadows was one of the four recipients.
It was against this backdrop that Meadows changed direction last week and agreed to start cooperating with the congressional probe. As of this morning, he apparently changed direction again.
In terms of what to expect next, the House select committee was already prepared to seek criminal contempt charges against the former White House chief of staff, and barring another reversal from Meadows, the congressional contempt process is very likely to move forward. Lawmakers have an interest in reminding everyone that congressional subpoenas are not casual invitations or suggestions.
But there are related questions about why, exactly, Meadows has veered in competing directions. The first change made some sense: He saw Bannon get indicted, wanted to avoid a similar fate, and decided that cooperating with the committee was the smart move.
This new reversal, coming just a week after his first reversal, is harder to understand.
It seems like a stretch, but perhaps Meadows' book had something to do with it? Keep in mind, Trump originally endorsed the book and encouraged his followers to buy it. But after some of Meadows' revelations from the book proved politically problematic, the former president condemned an accurate anecdote as "fake news," and reportedly complained to people close to him that the book — which he almost certainly never read — represented a betrayal.
Did Meadows abandon his cooperation with the Jan. 6 investigation in the hopes of returning to Trump's good graces? This is obviously speculative, but something appears to have happened between last week's decision and today's reversal.