Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows quietly decided to cooperate with special counsel Jack Smith’s prosecutors after they challenged former President Donald Trump’s claims of executive privilege, according to The New York Times.
Meadows “commenced a delicate dance” with federal prosecutors after receiving a subpoena from a grand jury over the winter, the outlet reported. Meadows initially declined to answer questions, citing Trump’s claims of executive privilege. But when Smith’s prosecutors challenge Trump’s claims, Meadows “pivoted” and “even though he risked enraging Trump,” decided to “trust” Smith’s team and quietly arranged to talk with them about both Trump’s efforts to stay in power and the Mar-a-Lago documents case, according to the report.
It’s unclear what Meadows told prosecutors and under what terms he was interviewed, though ABC News reported that Meadows undercut Trump’s claim that he “declassified” the national security documents he took home before leaving office.
But while Meadows’ cooperation prevented him from being named in the indictment in D.C., he was charged as a co-conspirator in the sprawling racketeering indictment in Georgia’s Fulton County.
Trump’s team has been “deeply suspicious” of Meadows for months but the discovery materials turned over by Smith’s team have given them visibility into what Meadows told prosecutors, according to the report.
“This witch hunt is nothing more than a desperate attempt to interfere in the 2024 election as President Trump dominates the polls and is the only person who will take back the White House,” Trump spokesman Steve Cheung told the Times.
National security attorney Bradley Moss called the report “confirmation that, under court order, Meadows ratted out Trump to the Feds.”
“What remains unclear is if he has some type of immunity deal,” he added.
The Times report noted that Meadows’ plan to be quietly cooperative with prosecutors without agreeing to a formal deal is “hardly a novel strategy” but carries risks for both Meadows and Trump.
While Meadows’ goal was to provide information he believed he was legally obligated to disclose, he also used the law to push back on requests he considered “inappropriate or potentially dangerous to his own interests,” a source told the Times.
The turn appears to have been part of Meadows attorney George Terwilliger’s strategy for dealing with the legal threats.
“George believes witnesses are not owned by anybody,” a source who has worked closely with the attorney told the Times. “They’re not there for a person; they’re not there against any person; they’re not on one person’s side. They’re there to tell the truth.”
Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.
After Meadows initially refused to answer certain questions during his first appearance before the grand jury, he gave an “unvarnished, privilege-free account” after he was ordered to return by U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell, according to the report.
But in Georgia, Meadows fought efforts to compel his testimony and invoked his rights against self-incrimination when he appeared before a grand jury, the report added. The Fulton County indictment alleges that Meadows played a key role in the fake elector scheme and other efforts to keep Trump in power.
Meadows has already filed to try to move the case from Georgia to a federal court and Terwilliger indicated that he plans to argue that Meadows is immune from prosecution because his actions were part of his official duties as chief of staff.
Former federal prosecutor Richard Signorelli predicted that Meadows will ultimately only have two options in the D.C. case: be an “indicted non-cooperating defendant for which conviction will mean lengthy incarceration” or a “fully cooperating defendant which will preserve all or most of his freedom.”
“Not complicated,” he added.
about Mark Meadows