In contrast to the previous public defense put forth by former President Donald Trump, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows brutally flipped on him and has informed special counsel Jack Smith’s investigators that he has no recollection of Trump issuing any directives or engaging in discussions regarding the declassification of extensive sets of classified documents prior to his departure from the White House.
Furthermore, Meadows claims to be unaware of any enduring directive from Trump that would authorize the automatic declassification of materials removed from the Oval Office. These details have been shared by sources familiar with the situation to ABC News.
Since the occurrence of the FBI’s confiscation of over 100 classified documents from his Mar-a-Lago home in August of the previous year, Trump has consistently maintained that he had authorized the declassification of all the aforementioned information prior to the conclusion of his presidential term.
The ex-president is currently confronted with a total of 40 distinct criminal allegations brought by Democrats pertaining to his retention of those documents. Joe Biden also had classified documents at his home but he has not been charged.
Trump has entered a plea of not guilty to all counts and has vehemently denied any involvement in any illegal activities.
ABC News has conducted a comprehensive analysis of an initial version of the introductory section of Meadows’ literary work titled “The Chief’s Chief,” which delves into his tenure as the chief of staff during the concluding months of the Trump administration.
This section encompasses a depiction of Trump possessing a confidential military strategy document “on the couch” within his office located in Bedminster, New Jersey. The meeting in question was attended by Meadows’ ghostwriter and publicist, but notably, Meadows himself was absent. The mention of the document being in Trump’s office was expunged before the publication of the book.
ABC News has been informed by several sources that Meadows admitted to investigators that he made a request for the alteration of the paragraph, and he recognized the potential complications that would arise if Trump had indeed possessed such a document. According to sources cited by ABC News, Meadows reportedly informed special counsel investigators that he did not engage in any discussions with Trump regarding the aforementioned edits.
According to sources, Meadows informed investigators that he did not participate in the process of packing the boxes that were transported to Mar-a-Lago by Trump subsequent to his departure from the White House.
This statement effectively establishes a significant degree of separation between Meadows and the removal of federal records, which encompassed data categorized as sensitive. According to the sources, Meadows informed investigators that he did not personally observe President Trump engaging in the act of packing boxes, nor was he aware of any instance when Trump had removed federal records, especially those classified in nature.
According to Meadows, he informed investigators that in close proximity to the National Archives’ initial request for the repatriation of the official documents transported to Mar-a-Lago in 2021, he proposed to Trump the idea of personally examining the former president’s containers in order to retrieve the official records and facilitate their return to Washington. According to reports, Meadows informed investigators that President Trump declined the offer.
After the FBI conducted a search of Mar-a-Lago in August 2022, a statement was released by Trump’s team to a media outlet. The statement asserted that during his tenure as President, Trump had implemented a directive whereby documents removed from the Oval Office and transported to the residence were automatically considered declassified upon his removal of them. According to statements made by President Trump on social media, he asserted that the records located at Mar-a-Lago had been fully declassified.
Based on the information provided by individuals with knowledge of the situation, Meadows informed investigators that he had been exposed to the term “standing order” during his tenure at the White House; however, he clarified that it was not in the context of the declassification procedure.
A spokeswoman representing Trump, in a statement sent to ABC News, made an assertion that the Justice Department engaged in the selective dissemination of incomplete material with the intention of influencing the outcome of the 2024 election.
The assertion posited that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the special counsel “have resorted to selectively leaking incomplete information that lacks proper context because they know they can’t win inside a courtroom, so now they are trying to deceive Americans through the court of public opinion,” adding that “This witch-hunt is nothing more than a desperate attempt to interfere in the 2024 election as President Trump dominates the polls and is the only person who will take back the White House.”
According to several people who are acquainted with the situation, Meadows reported to investigators that he witnessed President Trump declassifying documents during his tenure as the chief of staff. This particular instance involved a binder containing materials related to the FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation into the alleged connections between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia.
The aforementioned executive order, which was issued during the concluding period of President Trump’s tenure in the White House, has been a matter of contention. The Justice Department has been reluctant to provide the alleged documents in question to the public.
Meadows has refrained from making public statements regarding the classified documents investigation, as well as Smith’s concurrent inquiry into Trump and his associates’ endeavors to invalidate the outcome of the 2020 election. This has led to conjecture within Trump’s close circle regarding the nature of Meadows’ disclosures to investigators in that particular investigation, as per sources.
Last week, Meadows, along with Trump and 17 other individuals, was indicted in Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ independent investigation pertaining to allegations of election involvement in Georgia.
According to sources, Smith’s team has also conducted interviews with additional witnesses regarding the omission of references to the war plan document in the initial version of Meadows’ book.