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Justice Department Filing Supports Jan. 6 Committee’s Subpoena of Meadows

Katherine Pompilio
Monday, July 18, 2022, 2:32 PM

The Justice Department determined that the closest advisers to presidents do not retain absolute immunity from congressional subpoenas after those presidents leave office.

Published by The Lawfare Institute
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On Dec. 8, 2021, former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to quash a set of subpoenas from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Meadows sought declaratory judgment regarding the legality of the subpoenas. In the lawsuit, the former White House chief of staff argued that the information requested by the select committee is protected by executive privilege, and therefore, Meadows asserted, the committee could not compel his testimony or gain access to certain documents. 

U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols solicited the Justice Department’s opinion in June 2022 on whether Meadows was entitled to any executive privilege or testimonial immunity. In response to Nichols’s request, the Justice Department released a Statement of Interest on July 15, which detailed the department’s finding that  “immediate advisers” to former presidents retain a form of only qualified immunity from congressional subpoenas. The Justice Department noted in its filing that although constitutional protections for immediate advisers related to executive privilege “continue to have force” after a president leaves office, “the relevant constitutional concerns are lessened.” The department also stated that retained testimonial immunity for former presidents’ closest advisers can be overcome if legislators demonstrate their need for compelled information and their inability to obtain that information elsewhere. 

You can read the department’s Statement of Interest here or below:

Katherine Pompilio is an associate editor of Lawfare. She holds a B.A. with honors in political science from Skidmore College.

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