Meadows told special counsel he could not recall Trump ever declassifying Mar-a-Lago docs: Sources

ABC News reported that neither Jack Meadows, the former chief of staff for the White House, nor Mark Smith, the special counsel investigator, were aware of any standing order from President Trump authorizing the automatic declassification of materials taken out of the Oval Office. Even before leaving the White House, Meadows and Smith did not discuss broad sets of classified materials or recall Trump ever ordering their declassification. These classified documents could potentially contradict Trump’s primary defense in the case.

In August of last year, Trump maintained that he declassified all the materials prior to his departure from office, following the FBI’s confiscation of over 100 classified documents from his Mar-a-Lago property. The ex-president currently confronts 40 distinct criminal accusations connected to his ownership of those documents, encompassing illegal retention of national defense information and multiple obstruction-related offenses.

Trump has entered a plea of not guilty to all accusations and has refuted any misconduct.

The document that referenced the book being published before was removed from Trump’s possession. The document includes a description of Trump having a classified war plan “on couch” at his office in Bedminster, New Jersey, which was attended by Meadows, his publicist and ghostwriter. Meadows, who served as Trump’s chief of staff during his final months in the White House, also reviewed an early draft of the prologue of Meadows’ book, titled “Chief’s Chief,” during a meeting at Trump’s office. ABC News reported this.

According to multiple sources from ABC News, Meadows acknowledged that Trump had a document in his possession, which investigators from the special counsel’s office had not discussed. Meadows also mentioned that Trump informed him that the paragraph in question would be “problematic” and requested it to be changed.

Meadows told investigators that Trump was unaware of any government records that were classified, including those taken by him. Meadows also said that Trump did not witness himself packing the boxes and he was not involved in packing the boxes when he left the White House to go to Mar-a-Lago, according to sources.

According to sources, Meadows informed investigators that Trump declined his proposal. He suggested to Trump that he would examine the former president’s containers to recover the authorized records and promptly dispatch them back to Washington after the National Archives initially asked for the return of the official documents brought to Mar-a-Lago in 2021. The previous head of staff also informed investigators.

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“All the documents that were declassified at Mar-a-Lago were insisted upon by Trump himself on social media. He removed them the moment they were declassified from the Oval Office and taken to his residence. Trump issued a statement claiming that one media outlet had issued an order to declassify documents while he was still in office. Following the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago in August 2022.”

According to familiar sources, Meadows told investigators that he had heard the term “standing order” being used during his time in the White House, but it is not related to the process of declassification.

Prosecutors may find it advantageous to present Meadows as a witness to refute such allegations in the event that they decide to assert such an argument during the trial. Despite the fact that Trump’s lawyers have not officially presented such a defense in the courtroom.

ABC News contacted a representative from the special counsel’s office, who chose not to provide a statement. ABC News also contacted George Terwilliger, Meadows’ attorney, who declined to comment for this report.

The Trump spokesperson, without providing any evidence, accused the Justice Department of “deliberately releasing incomplete information” in order to influence the 2024 election, according to a statement given to ABC News.

The person who will only take the back of the White House is the President Trump, as he dominates the polls in the 2024 election. This witch hunt is nothing more than a desperate attempt to interfere in the election, as they know they can’t win in the courtroom because the public opinion court is trying to deceive Americans by selectively leaking incomplete and contextually improper information. The special counsel and the DOJ have claimed this statement.

The Department of Justice has resisted publicly releasing documents related to the issue, but multiple sources familiar with the matter have said that during the final days of Trump’s time in the White House, there was a dispute about declassifying a binder containing materials from the FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation into Trump’s 2016 campaign, where Meadows, who was serving as Trump’s chief of staff at the time, claimed that he wanted Trump to see the materials and only recalled investigators in one instance.

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Last week, Fulton County District Attorney Willis indicted Georgia Attorney General Meadows, along with 17 others, in a separate investigation into election interference. Sources have informed investigators about what Meadows may have told them regarding Trump’s inner circle, generating speculation among Trump’s allies about his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Additionally, Meadows has remained publicly silent on the topic of the classified documents related to Smith’s parallel investigation.

Other members of Smith’s team have also questioned witnesses about the references to the war plan document that were dropped from the early draft of Meadows’ book, which was written by the ghostwriter who was present at the meeting with Trump in Bedminster in July 2021, where the president heard a recording of the meeting referring to an audio recording of the claimed meeting that was not produced by Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at Meadows’ request.

According to the recording, which was later acquired by ABC News, Trump exclaims, “Isn’t that astonishing? I have just discovered, let’s examine this. This unquestionably proves my argument, you know. Confidential. Extremely secretive, as it should be. Confidential data is what it is. Observe this, look. It was given to me and prepared by the military. I had the authority to declassify it as the president, but now I am unable to do so.”

Trump remembers a four-page report written by Milley himself, which mentions the Bedminster conversation in the prologue of Meadows’ book, “The Chief’s Chief,” published in late 2021.

Meadows’ book states that during his presidency, President Trump urged something to be done once again. The plan of his general, which was contained in it, involved deploying a massive number of troops to attack Iran.

The purported document in Trump’s custody during the interview was further explicitly mentioned by the preliminary edition of the excerpt initially dispatched to Meadows by his collaborator, which was evaluated by ABC News.

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“If he had been able to declassify his old files, it would probably win his case. President Trump found this plan in his morning pointed out files. It reads draft shows that he urged President Trump to do something once more during his presidency, which is to plan his own attack on Iran.”

According to sources, Meadows claimed that Trump would have had a similar document at Bedminster because he did not believe it at the time. Meadows personally excluded it due to the modifications made to the wording in the preliminary version, and Smith’s investigators questioned Meadows, as reported by sources to ABC News.

Sources have said that if it were true that Trump did indeed have such a document, it would be concerning and problematic. Meadows also said that the sources in his book have given accurate revelations about the classified materials recovered from Mar-a-Lago in the months since, and it is unclear whether his perspective has changed on the accuracy of the ghostwriter’s recollection.

In an interview with Fox News in June, Trump denied that the material in his possession at Bedminster was a classified document.

“I didn’t have a document, per se,” Trump said. “There was nothing to declassify. These were newspaper stories, magazine stories and articles.”.

Meadows also informed investigators that if Trump had been asked by the National Archives to return all remaining presidential records in his possession, he would have handled the initial search with great diligence, as he has always been diligent in dealing with familiar sources.

It is uncertain if the special counsel is still examining the details regarding Meadows’ revisions to the book.

Prior to this month, Smith had only mentioned the transaction in his initial indictment when he accused Trump of having the document he was purportedly alluding to during their meeting, in a subsequent indictment that was issued last month.

In April, Meadows appeared before a federal grand jury in a hearing on evidence that was previously reported by ABC News. Along with other former aides to Trump, Meadows had been subpoenaed for testimony and had their documents classified in the probe.

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