St. Louis Post-Dispatch

With public hearings coming soon from the House committee investigating Jan. 6, the Department of Justice has decided not to charge two key figures with contempt of Congress for refusing to honor subpoenas.

Former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows and deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino are apparently off the hook despite refusing a legally binding obligation to tell Congress what they know about an attack on America’s democracy — an attack that continues to pose a threat.

Former Trump adviser Stephen Bannon was indicted by a federal grand jury in November for refusing to cooperate with the Jan. 6 committee. On Friday, former White House adviser Peter Navarro was indicted as well. But Attorney General Merrick Garland’s Justice Department said Friday it won’t pursue charges against Meadows and Scavino — even though, like Bannon and Navarro, they have both ignored legally issued subpoenas.

The official Justice Department explanation is that each decision of whether to pursue indictment was based upon “the individual facts and circumstances of their alleged contempt.” That’s unacceptably vague. In a joint statement the committee’s top leaders, Reps. Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, and Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, called the decision “to reward Mark Meadows and Dan Scavino for their continued attack on the rule of law puzzling” and sought “greater clarity” from the Justice Department on the decision.

What’s already known, with great clarity, is that Meadows and Scavino were actively involved in former President Donald Trump’s corrupt attempt to overturn the 2020 election — an effort that directly fueled the Jan. 6 insurrection. Scavino is a long-time Trump aide who was in charge of his social media, making him an intrinsically relevant witness, given the massive role Trump’s social media played before and during the insurrection.

Meadows’ testimony may be even more enlightening. One witness has already told the committee that Meadows told people he had heard Trump suggest, in response to Jan. 6 chants from the crowd of “Hang Mike Pence,” that perhaps Pence, Trump’s vice president, should be hanged for refusing to help overturn the election. Did Meadows really hear Trump say that? If so, in what context and tone of voice?

These are serious questions concerning a former president who could yet become a future president. Only Meadows can address these questions, and he isn’t talking to either the public or the committee.

There are also reports that Meadows personally burned documents after meeting with a congressman who was actively involved in trying to overthrow the election. The committee must determine if that’s true and, if so, why.

Meadows and Scavino claim that executive privilege gives them the power to refuse to testify — a stretch, some would say, since trying to overthrow an election wasn’t exactly part of their official job descriptions. Let them make their case to a jury.

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