(AP) - Donald Trump’s eldest son pleaded with the White House chief of staff to tell his father to end the violence at the US Capitol, a committee has revealed.
The January 6 committee investigating the Capitol insurrection released texts sent to Mark Meadows by Donald Trump Jr before the House of Representatives voted to hold Mr Meadows in contempt of Congress
after he ceased to cooperate with the investigation.
“We need an Oval Office address,” Mr Trump Jr texted, the committee said, as his father’s supporters were breaking into the Capitol, sending lawmakers running for their lives and interrupting the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential victory.
“He has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand.”
Mr Trump Jr added: “He’s got to condemn this shit ASAP.” In response to one of Mr Trump Jr’s texts, Mr Meadows said: “I’m pushing it hard. I agree.”
The move on Tuesday is the first time the chamber has voted to hold a former member in contempt since the 1830s.
The near-party line 222-208 vote is the second time the special committee has sought to punish a witness for defying a subpoena.
The vote is the latest show of force by the panel as it investigates the worst attack on the Capitol in more than 200 years.
Lawmakers on the panel are determined to get answers quickly, and in doing so reassert the congressional authority that eroded while former president Donald Trump was in office.
The two Republican votes — Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who serve on the committee — in favour of the resolution came after nine Republicans voted to hold former Trump ally Steve Bannon in contempt in October.
While Mr Bannon’s case was more clear-cut — he never engaged with the committee at all — Mr Meadows had turned over documents and negotiated for two months with the panel about an interview.
Mr Meadows also has closer relationships within the Republican caucus, having just left Congress last year.
He was also Mr Trump’s top aide in the White House, giving him more plausible grounds to claim executive privilege. Mr Bannon had not worked in the White House since 2017.
The Justice Department will also be weighing those factors as prosecutors decide whether to move forward with the case. If convicted, Mr Bannon and Mr Meadows could each face up to one year behind bars on each charge.
Democrat Jamie Raskin, another member of the panel, began Tuesday’s debate on the resolution by reading frantic texts from the day of the attack revealing members of Congress, Fox News anchors and even Mr Trump’s son urging Mr Meadows to persuade the outgoing president to act quickly to stop the three-hour assault by his supporters.
Republicans on Tuesday called the action against Mr Meadows a distraction from the House’s work, with one member calling it “evil” and “un-American.”
Jim Jordan of Ohio praised Meadows: “Make no mistake, when Democrats vote in favour of this resolution, it is a vote to put a good man in prison.”
Mr Trump also defended Meadows in an interview, saying: “I think Mark should do what’s right. He’s an honourable man. He shouldn’t be put through this.”
And Mr Meadows’ attorney George Terwilliger defended his client in a statement before the vote, noting that he had provided documents to the panel and maintaining that he should not be compelled to appear for an interview.
Mr Terwilliger said: “The Select Committee’s true intentions in dealing with Mr Meadows have been revealed when it accuses him of contempt citing the very documents his cooperation has produced.”
Mr Meadows himself has sued the panel, asking a court to invalidate two subpoenas that he says are “overly broad and unduly burdensome”.
Meanwhile, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told reporters: “I do think we’re all watching, as you are, what is unfolding on the House side. And it will be interesting to reveal all the participants who were involved.”
He added that he was not in contact with Mr Meadows on the day of the attack.