US lawmakers voted Tuesday (Dec 14) to recommend criminal contempt charges against Donald Trump's former top aide Mark Meadows for refusing to testify before the congressional panel investigating the Jan 6 assault on the Capitol.

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The rebuke from the House of Representatives moves the ultra-conservative ex-congressman a step closer to becoming the first White House chief of staff to be prosecuted after leaving the post since H R Haldeman in the Watergate scandal nearly 50 years ago.

"We've given Mark Meadows every opportunity to cooperate. He's brought this situation on himself," the House Jan 6 select committee said in a statement ahead of the vote, which went roughly along party lines, with just two Republicans joining every Democrat to hold Meadows in contempt.

The panel is investigating Trump's efforts to overturn his defeat in the November 2020 election in the run-up to the Capitol riot - as well as the help he got from Meadows and others.

Meadows, who served in the House for seven years before decamping to Trump's team in 2020, defied a subpoena requiring him to testify, pointing to an "executive privilege" claim by the Republican former president.

That defense, which is theoretically only available to sitting presidents seeking to keep sensitive conversations with aides private, has already been shot down by a federal appeals court.