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 texts and emails to the National Archives that he had not previously turned over from his time in the administration, sources familiar with the matter tell CNN.
Meadows’ submission to the Archives was part of a request for all electronic communications covered under the Presidential Records Act. The Archives had become aware earlier this year it did not have everything from Meadows after seeing what he had turned over to the House select committee investigating January 6, 2021. Details of Meadows’ submissions to the Archives and the engagement between the two sides have not been previously reported.
“It could be a coincidence, but within a week of the August 8 search on Mar-a-Lago, much more started coming in,” one source familiar with the discussions said.
The records Meadows turned over to the Archives were not classified, and the situation is markedly different from the Archives’ efforts to retrieve federal records from Trump and its referral to the Justice Department earlier this year when classified materials were discovered among documents the agency retrieved from Mar-a-Lago.
The source familiar with the discussions said that the Archives considered Meadows to be cooperating, even though the process started slowly.
“This is how it’s supposed to work,” the source added, saying it was not the kind of situation that needed to be referred to the Justice Department.
Another person familiar with the matter said the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago had nothing to do with Meadows’ decision to turn over the materials to the Archives, as it was a separate discussion.
Still, it’s an awkward position for Trump’s former chief of staff to be in, as Meadows also has been engaged in efforts to get Trump to return documents to the National Archives since last year, sources tell CNN. Meadows is one of Trump’s designees to the Archives, and he got involved in the summer of 2021 after being contacted by another designee, former Trump Deputy White House Counsel Pat Philbin.
While he was at Mar-a-Lago last summer, Meadows talked with Trump about the documents that the Archives was seeking to have returned, sources said. Meadows has continued to work with the Archives in its efforts to recover documents since then, according to the sources.
In recent weeks, Meadows’ lawyers arranged to turn over materials to the Archives that Meadows had already shared with Congress for the January 6 select committee investigation. Meadows agreed to provide the material to the Archives, though his legal team maintained that it believes it was not subject to the Presidential Records Act.
A spokesperson for Meadows declined to comment. The National Archives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Meadows’ engagement with the Archives and his discussions with Trump underscore the lengthy efforts the Archives embarked on to retrieve federal records from Trump that led to last month’s unprecedented FBI search of the former President’s residence.
Trump turned over 15 boxes of documents to the Archives in January, but additional documents with classified markings remained at Mar-a-Lago. Federal investigators sought to have those documents turned over in June through a grand jury subpoena and obtained a search warrant last month after developing evidence that not all classified material had been provided.
The Justice Department said in court filings unsealed Friday that the FBI retrieved more than 100 classified documents – including 18 with “top secret” markings – from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort during the August 8 search, along with more than 11,000 unclassified government documents, press clippings, gifts and clothing.
The Washington Post first reported Meadows had turned over materials to the Archives last month.
In recent months, Trump has been counseled to cut contact with Meadows, whose actions leading up to and on the day of the US Capitol attack have been deeply scrutinized by the House panel investigating January 6, sources have said. A source close to Trump said that while the former President has not completely cut ties with Meadows, Trump has complained about Meadows in conversations with other allies.
“Their relationship is not the same as it once was” while they served in the White House, the source told CNN.
The Archives’ engagement with Meadows over electronic communications in his possession began when it realized the January 6 committee had obtained records that the Archives didn’t have and believed fell under the Presidential Records Act. CNN reported earlier this year the contents of more than 2,300 text messages Meadows selectively provided to the House panel in the period between Election Day 2020 and President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
In addition to the text messages, Meadows also recently provided the Archives with about a dozen emails, one source said.
“This is a category of communication that was on a personal device, but you are supposed to hand it over,” the source said. “He had an obligation to ensure that his PRA materials were preserved and turned over.”
The back-and-forth between the Archives and Meadows has been going on for some time, and it was several months between the initial contact and the first batch that was provided, according to one source.
After the Archives made its request, Meadows and his lawyers went through his communications and handed over what they thought was covered under the Presidential Records Act, one source said. The law has carveouts detailing what materials do not need to be provided to the Archives, such as messages that were primarily personal or political in nature.