Showdown between Meadows, House captures DC’s dysfunctional culture

Trump, Meadows and 2020 debate

Press pounces on account of COVID test

What a Washington classic: Everyone is suing or subpoenaing everyone else.

That’s what’s going on in the capital cesspool.

It’s a mirror of the paralysis that, with the notable exception of infrastructure, prevents our elected leaders from accomplishing much of anything.

But what makes the case of Mark Meadows fascinating is that he was cooperating with the House committee investigating Jan. 6. In fact, he’d turned over thousands of documents.

And then, suddenly, he did an about-face … followed by a lawsuit.

Could this have anything to do with the fact that the former White House chief of staff has just published a book that left Donald Trump furious? And, having walked back the account that Trump was diagnosed with Covid before debating Joe Biden, perhaps he felt pressure to get back into Trump’s good graces?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., right, addresses reporters in Washington, June 16, 2021. Behind her, from left, are Democratic U.S. Reps. Gwen Moore of Wisconsin; Angie Craig of Minnesota; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Sara Jacobs of California.
(Getty Images)

It can all seem like partisan game-playing. But the context is deadly serious. We are approaching the one-year anniversary of a violent assault on our nation’s democracy. At the time, watching marauders search for lawmakers and cops get beat up, the entire nation was horrified.

But over time, the probe itself has become a political football. First Republicans blocked a bipartisan commission. Then Democrats rejected some Kevin McCarthy picks for the House panel — and he pulled the rest, prompting Nancy Pelosi to replace them with two anti-Trump Republicans.

In a broader sense, the investigation, like the 2020 election itself, is being relentlessly spun by both sides. For Democrats, a legitimate inquiry has the undeniable effect of damaging Trump and blaming him for incitement. For Republicans, the riot is being downplayed as not that big a deal, cast as a partisan, backward-looking obsession aimed at Trump.

As for the contempt-of-Congress citations, they used to be wrist slaps that would lead to settlements. But this time, the Biden Justice Department brought an indictment against Steve Bannon, and Meadows and a former Trump DOJ official could face similar fates.

Of course, with Bannon’s trial date set for next July, even criminal charges haven’t proven to be much of a deterrent.

Meadows argues in his suit that he is being “illegally coerced into violating the Constitution,” and that the subpoenas should be ruled “unlawful and unenforceable.” The former congressman is invoking executive privilege, which goes to the constitutional separation of powers.

Then-President Donald Trump is seen in Morristown, New Jersey, Aug. 9, 2020. 
(Associated Press)

But that didn’t stop him from cooperating with the committee until a couple of days ago. And publishing a book about his dealings with Trump should make it harder to argue that he can’t possibly discuss his dealings with Trump as part of a congressional probe.

The chairman, Bennie Thompson, and his vice chair Liz Cheney, fired back that the “flawed lawsuit won’t succeed at slowing down the select committee’s investigation or stopping us from getting the information we’re seeking.”

Meadows told Fox that what he’s turned over shows “no one in the White House had any advance knowledge of anything that was going to happen on that particular day in terms of a breach of security on January 6th.”

The horse is partly out of the barn. Meadows has already provided his texted response to a lawmaker who said the attempt to block Biden’s victory would be “highly controversial.”

“I love it,” Meadows replied.

Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are seen in a Fox News photo illustration.
(Getty Images)

He’s also surrendered a text in which he urged the president on Jan. 6 to make a public statement urging the mob that invaded the Capitol to go home.

Is Meadows worried about worse stuff emerging? He’s withholding about 1,000 texts that he appears to regard as personal.

In another arena, New York Attorney General Letitia James — who just ended her brief gubernatorial campaign — wants to subpoena the former president to testify under oath in a civil case involving the Trump Organization. He will undoubtedly try to block the deposition.

The Hill probe is increasingly consumed by process, each twist and turn of which is amplified by the media. The Democrats are accusing the other side of stalling, the Republicans are accusing the other side of witch-hunting, and both sides say the other is operating in bad faith. It’s another chapter in the polarization that still has an iron grip on this country.

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