Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told investigators he had no knowledge of Donald Trump even discussing or declassifying classified information, it was reported Sunday, potentially skewering the former president’s defense of his classified documents case.
Meadows’ alleged acceptance of special counsel Jack Smith, reported by ABC News, suggests that Trump did not make a blanket declassification of the secret papers later obtained from his resort in Mar- a-Lago by FBI agents, which led to 40 criminal counts against him.
Trump, who has pleaded not guilty to all charges, insists there is no proof he gave automatic clearance to every government document he brought to Florida at the end of his administration in January 2021. But his lawyer has not yet presented the defense in court and doing so could open the possibility of calling Meadows as a witness to contradict it, ABC said.
According to ABC, Meadows also told Smith that he wasn’t involved in packing the boxes, didn’t witness Trump or anyone else doing it, and claimed he didn’t know the former president had brought anything with him.
If true, it’s remarkable that one of Trump’s closest aides had no knowledge of anything to do with maintaining the documents. It could also be suggested that Trump knew what he was getting into and planned and executed the operation himself.
Trump’s former vice-president, Mike Pence, also said he was not aware of any standing order for the declassification of the documents.
Asked about the report, he told ABC’s This Week: “There’s a process that the White House goes through to release the materials. I know it’s happened on several occasions in our four years but I don’t know any extent. directive from the president.
Pence, who is now challenging his former boss for the Republican presidential nomination, added: “That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It’s just not something I’ve ever heard.”
Asked if Meadows, as Trump’s chief of staff, was aware of any such broad declassification order, Pence said: “I would expect so.”
Meadows, who has remained silent publicly about the documents’ case, was indicted along with Trump and 17 others last week by Fani Willis, the district attorney for Fulton County in Georgia who is investigating efforts to overturn the victory. of Joe Biden there in 2020.
On Saturday, Meadows’ attorneys asked a federal court to dismiss the state charges against him.
Meadows claimed that his alleged actions, including participating with Trump in a phone call with Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, should be immune from state prosecution because they were done in his capacity as a federal official.
A 37-page document filed Saturday in a U.S. district court in Georgia said Meadows’ actions were protected by the supremacy clause of the U.S. constitution, which federal officials are exempt from. with respect to state prosecution for acts committed within the reasonable scope of their duties. .
“The conduct alleged here fell within the scope of Mr. Meadows’ duties as chief of staff and the federal policy underlying that role,” attorneys said in the filing.
The document also claims protection under the first and 14th amendments to the constitution.
The filing came days after Meadows, a former North Carolina congressman, sought to move the case from Georgia’s Fulton County to federal court.
In the investigation into the classified documents, ABC said, Meadows appeared before a federal grand jury investigating the classified documents in April. According to ABC sources, Meadows told the special counsel that he made an offer to Trump to go through the boxes and retrieve the classified documents after the National Archives first requested their return in 2021. , but was denied.
ABC also claimed to have reviewed a draft copy of Meadows’ 2021 memoir, The Chief’s Chief, which it said Meadows asked to be rewritten to change the description of Trump’s discussion of a classified plan to war with Iran in front of unauthorized people at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
A reference to Trump’s handling of the document was removed from the final draft, ABC said, because it would be “problematic”. Audio of the meeting, heard by the Guardian, shows Trump bragging about having a document on Iran from the “defense department”. Trump later admitted there was no document, and he explained the news clippings.
In a statement to ABC News, the Trump campaign accused the justice department of “selectively leaking incomplete information without proper context”.
Echoing the language Trump used in response to all of his accusations, the statement said: “This witch hunt is nothing more than a desperate attempt to interfere in the 2024 election while President Trump is is dominating the polls and is the only person who will take back the White House.”
Reuters contributed to this report