Within a week of the FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows handed over to the National Archives texts and emails he had not previously handed over from his time in the administration, sources familiar with the case tell CNN.
Meadows’ submission to the Archives was part of a request for all electronic communications covered by the Presidential Records Act. The Archives had learned earlier this year that it didn’t have everything from Meadows after seeing what he handed over to the House selection committee investigating Jan. 6, 2021. previously reported.
“It could be a coincidence, but within a week of the Aug. 8 search at Mar-a-Lago, many more came in,” said a source familiar with the discussions.
The records Meadows handed over to the archives were unclassified, and the situation differs significantly from the archives’ efforts to retrieve Trump’s federal records and the Justice Department’s reference earlier this year when classified material was discovered between documents that the agency had collected from Mar-à-Lago.
The source familiar with the discussions said the archives considered Meadows to be cooperative, even though the process got off to a slow start.
“This is how it should work,” the source added, saying it was not the kind of situation that should be referred to the Justice Department.
Another person familiar with the case said the FBI’s search for Mar-a-Lago had nothing to do with Meadows’ decision to hand over the material to the archives, as it was a separate discussion.
Still, it’s a tricky position for the former Trump chief of staff, as Meadows has also been involved in efforts to get Trump to return documents to the National Archives since last year, sources tell CNN. Meadows is one of Trump’s nominees for the records, and he became involved in the summer of 2021 after being contacted by another designated person, former White House deputy counsel for Trump, Pat Philbin.
While in Mar-a-Lago last summer, Meadows spoke to Trump about the documents the Archives wanted to return, sources said. According to the sources, Meadows has since continued to work with the Archives to recover documents.
A Meadows spokesperson declined to comment. The National Archives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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Meadows’ involvement in the archives and his discussions with Trump underscore the long-standing efforts the archives have made to retrieve federal data from Trump, leading to last month’s unprecedented FBI search of the former president’s residence.
Trump handed 15 boxes of documents to the archives in January, but additional documents with secret markings remained in Mar-a-Lago. Federal investigators attempted to have those documents handed over in June through a grand jury subpoena and were given a search warrant last month after developing evidence that not all of the classified material had been provided.
The Justice Department said in court files unsealed Friday that the FBI recovered more than 100 classified documents — including 18 with “top secret” markings — from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort during the Aug. 8 search, together with more than 11,000 unclassified government documents, newspaper clippings, gifts and clothing.
The Washington Post first reported that Meadows turned over material to the archives last month.
In recent months, Trump has been advised to cut ties with Meadows, whose actions prior to and on the day of the US Capitol attack have been thoroughly investigated by the House panel investigating Jan. 6, sources said. A source close to Trump said that while the former president has not completely severed ties with Meadows, Trump has complained about Meadows in talks with other allies.
“Their relationship is not the same as it once was” while serving in the White House, the source told CNN.
The Archives’ involvement with Meadows over electronic communications in its possession began when it realized that the Jan. 6 commission had obtained documents that the Archives did not have and that they believed were covered by the Presidential Records Act. Earlier this year, CNN reported the contents of more than 2,300 text messages Meadows had selectively provided to the House panel in the period between Election Day 2020 and President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
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In addition to the text messages, Meadows also recently delivered a dozen emails to the archives, a source said.
“This is a category of communication that was on a personal device, but you have to hand it over,” the source said. “He had a duty to ensure that his PRA materials were preserved and transferred.”
The back-and-forth between the Archives and Meadows has been going on for a while, and it was several months between the first contact and the first batch provided, according to a source.
In recent weeks, Meadows’ attorneys have agreed to turn over material to the archives Meadows had already shared with Congress for the Jan. 6 select committee’s investigation. Meadows agreed to provide the material to the archives, although his legal team claimed it was not subject to the Presidential Records Act.
After the archives filed their request, Meadows and his attorneys went through his communications and handed over what they believed to be covered by the Presidential Records Act, a source said. The law has exceptions that specify what material should not be provided to the archives, such as messages that are primarily personal or political in nature.