Meadows, other top Trump aides ordered to testify in Jan. 6 probe as judge rejects claims of executive privilege
Written by ABC Audio All Rights Reserved on March 25, 2023
(WASHINGTON) — 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.
Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff, was subpoenaed along with the other former aides by Special counsel Jack Smith for testimony and documents related to the probe.
Trump’s legal team had challenged the subpoenas by asserting executive privilege, which is the right of a president to keep confidential the communications he has with advisers.
In a sealed order last week, Judge Beryl Howell rejected Trump’s claim of executive privilege for Meadows and a number of others, including Trump’s former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, his former national security adviser Robert O’Brien, former top aide Stephen Miller, and former deputy chief of staff and social media director Dan Scavino, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Former Trump aides Nick Luna and John McEntee, along with former top Department of Homeland Security official Ken Cuccinelli, were also included in the order, the sources said.
Trump is likely to appeal the ruling, according to sources briefed on the matter.
“The DOJ is continuously stepping far outside the standard norms in attempting to destroy the long accepted, long held, Constitutionally based standards of attorney-client privilege and executive privilege,” a Trump spokesperson said in a statement. “There is no factual or legal basis or substance to any case against President Trump. The deranged Democrats and their comrades in the mainstream media are corrupting the legal process and weaponizing the justice system in order to manipulate public opinion, because they are clearly losing the political battle.”
Meadows did not respond to ABC’s request for comment and neither did an attorney representing him. Ratcliffe, O’Brien, Miller, Luna, McEntee and Cuccinelli did not respond to ABC’s request for comment. An attorney representing Scavino also did not respond.
Some of the aides that have been ordered to testify have already appeared before the grand jury but did not answer some questions related to interactions with the former president, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News, and thus would now be required to return for additional testimony. The grand jury proceedings are being held under seal.
It’s not clear the amount of information each of them would have, or the scope of what prosecutors want to question them on, the sources said.
ABC News previously reported that in February, prosecutors investigating Jan. 6 moved to compel testimony from a number of top Trump aides, including Meadows, Ratcliffe and O’Brien.
Previously, Judge Howell had rejected Trump’s claim of executive privilege to block the testimony of two top aides to Vice President Mike Pence, Greg Jacob and Marc Short. In rejecting Trump’s motion to block the testimony of Jacob and Short, the judge ruled that it is up to the current president to assert executive privilege, not a former president, according to sources familiar with the proceedings.
The judge also previously ruled that former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, along with his deputy Pat Philbin, also had to return to the grand jury to answer additional questions after Trump previously argued they were protected by privilege.
Howell is being succeeded by a new chief judge on the D.C. district court, who will now oversee grand jury matters related to the special counsel’s probes.
Smith, a longtime federal prosecutor and former head of the Justice Department’s public integrity section, was tapped in November by Attorney General Merrick Garland to oversee the Justice Department’s investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election and Trump’s handling of classified materials after leaving office.
Meadows, who according to sources was subpoenaed in January, was one of the only aides around Trump on Jan. 6 as the attack unfolded. He was also party to the infamous January 2021 phone call that Trump had with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which Trump asked Raffensperger to “find” him enough votes to win the state.
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