Mark Meadows is undermining Donald Trump’s claims that he declassified confidential documents he removed from the White House at the end of his term. The former chief of staff told special counsel investigators he could not recall the president declassifying numerous classified materials that he took, ABC News reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.
Trump, who has been hit with 40 criminal charges connected with the classified information he possessed, has pleaded not guilty and repeatedly argued that he should not be prosecuted for having upwards of 100 highly sensitive documents in his possession because he declassified them all.
According to an early draft of Meadows’ book, The Chief’s Chief, reviewed by ABC, he described a post-presidency meeting where Meadows’ ghostwriter and publicist were at Trump’s Bedminster, N.J., office. At that meeting, Meadows wrote, the former president was holding a classified draft of a plan to attack Iran. But before the book was published, Meadows had the publisher remove the paragraph describing that moment. Meadows told investigators that he requested the change because Trump having that document would be “problematic.”
“Wait a minute, let’s see here. I just found, isn’t that amazing?” Trump can be heard boasting in a recording of the meeting with Meadows’ ghostwriter and publicist, referencing the war plan. “This totally wins my case, you know. Except it is like, highly confidential. Secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this. This was done by the military and given to me. As president I could have declassified, but now I can’t.”
The original draft of Meadows’ book went into more detail about the classified war plan than the final published version.
“On the couch in front of the President’s desk, there’s a four-page report typed up by Mark Milley himself,” the draft said. “It shows the general’s own plan to attack Iran, something he urged President Trump to do more than once during his presidency. … When President Trump found this plan in his old files this morning, he pointed out that if he had been able to make this declassified, it would probably ‘win his case.’”
But the final version removed certain details. “It contained the general’s own plan to attack Iran, deploying massive numbers of troops, something he urged President Trump to do more than once during his presidency,” Meadows wrote.
Trump’s former chief of staff told investigators he was not involved in packing any of the boxes that contained the sensitive documents, nor was he even aware that Trump was removing classified materials from the White House. When he found out about the documents, Meadows told investigators, he offered to assist Trump in going through them to remove the official materials and return them to the federal government.
In response to the news of Meadows’ allegations, a Trump spokesperson alleged to ABC without evidence that the Justice Department was “selectively leaking incomplete information” to interfere with the upcoming presidential election. The statement called the investigation a “witch hunt” and accused the DOJ and special counsel of “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.”
Meadows has not been charged by the special counsel with any crimes, but he was subpoenaed for testimony and documents related to the investigation and testified before a federal grand jury in April. Meadows was also indicted last week in Georgia along with Trump and 17 others for alleged election interference.
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