Former president donald trump The latest White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, has spoken to special counsel Jack Smith’s team at least three times this year, including once before a federal grand jury, which came only after Smith granted him immunity. to Meadows to testify under oath, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Sources said Meadows informed Smith’s team that he repeatedly told Trump in the weeks after the 2020 presidential election that allegations of significant voter fraud reaching them were unfounded, a striking break from Trump’s prolific rhetoric regarding to the elections.
According to sources, Meadows also told federal investigators that Trump was being “dishonest” with the public when he first claimed to have won the election just hours after polls closed on Nov. 3, 2020, before knew the final results.
“Obviously we didn’t win,” a source quoted Meadows as telling Smith’s team in retrospect.
Trump has called Meadows, one of the former president’s closest and most senior advisers in the White House, a “special friend” and “a great chief of staff, as good as they come.”
The descriptions of what Meadows allegedly told investigators shed more light on the evidence Smith’s team has amassed as it prosecutes Trump for allegedly trying illegally retain power and “spreading lies” about the 2020 election. The descriptions also expose the lengths to which Trump loyalists like Meadows have gone to support and defend Trump.
Sources told ABC News that Smith’s investigators were very interested in questioning Meadows about election-related conversations he had with Trump during his final months in office, and whether Meadows actually believed some of the claims. which he included in a book he published after Trump left office. – a book that promised to “correct the record” on Trump.
ABC News has identified several statements in the book that appear to contradict what Meadows allegedly told investigators behind closed doors.
According to Meadows’ book, the election was “stolen” and “rigged” with the help of “allies of the liberal media,” who ignored “the real evidence of fraud, which is there for anyone to access and analyze.”
But, as described to ABC News, Meadows privately told Smith’s investigators that, to this day, he has yet to see any evidence of fraud that would have prevented now-President Joe Biden from reaching the White House, and told them He said he agrees. with a government assessment at the time that the 2020 presidential election was the most secure election in American history.
“We won these elections”
Trump was already questioning the integrity of the election months before Election Day. Then, just hours after polls closed on Nov. 3, 2020, as Trump was beginning to lose key states, Trump claimed on national television that it was all “a big fraud.”
“Frankly, we won this election,” Trump declared.
Meadows told investigators earlier this year that he had long believed Trump was being dishonest when he made that statement, given that votes were still being counted and results from several states were not yet available.
However, public testimony has shown that in the weeks after the election, Meadows helped Trump examine allegations of fraud coming to Trump from people like Rudy Giuliani, whom Trump put in charge of legal efforts. to keep him in the White House.
But Meadows said he privately informed Trump in mid-December that Giuliani had not presented any evidence to support the many accusations he was making, the sources said. Then-Attorney General Bill Barr also informed Trump and Meadows in an Oval Office meeting that allegations of voter fraud were “not working,” as Barr recounted in congressional testimony last year.
Meadows has said publicly that he believed “several allegations” still warranted “further investigation” and that he had “not reached a conclusion” about the election overall as of late December.
Also by then, Trump had run out of legal options. When the Supreme Court of the United States on December 11, 2020, denied his final court challengeTrump told Meadows something like “So that’s the end” or “So that’s it,” Meadows recalled to investigators, according to sources.
Still, Trump did not back down, insisting that there was widespread fraud but that the Justice Department was not “looking for it,” Barr recalled.
While speaking to investigators, Meadows was specifically asked if Trump ever acknowledged to him that he had lost the election. Meadows told investigators that she never heard Trump say that, according to sources.
On January 2, 2021, Meadows helped establish the now infamous phone call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger, during which Trump pressured Raffensberger to “find 11,780 votes…because we won the state.”
Meadows has said publicly that he basically introduced everyone on the call (which is corroborated by transcripts of the call that were made public) and has said he was simply trying to help them resolve a dispute over the Georgia election results.
On the call, Trump mentioned allegations of fraudulent votes hidden in suitcases, which the Justice Department had already “closely examined” and debunked, according to Barr’s testimony.
As described to ABC News, Meadows told Smith investigators that, around that time, there were many times when he wanted to resign out of fear that the way certain fraud allegations were being handled could have a negative impact, but ultimately He didn’t leave. because he wanted to help ensure a peaceful transfer of power.
“Large volume of falsehoods”
With the help of a ghostwriter, Meadows published his book, “The Chief’s Chief,” nearly a year after Trump left office.
“[T]”The sheer volume of falsehoods that have been published about the president’s time in the White House is staggering,” the book says. “I see this book as a small opportunity to correct the record.”
Trump even promoted the book himself, issuing a statement in December 2021 saying that the book “rightly spends a lot of time talking about the large-scale election fraud that took place… also known as the crime of the century.”
But sources told ABC News that in speaking with Smith’s investigators, Meadows admitted that he doesn’t actually believe some of the statements in his book.
According to sources, Meadows told investigators that he disagrees with what his book says when it says that “our many referrals to the Department of Justice were not seriously investigated.”
Meadows told investigators that he believes the Justice Department was taking the fraud allegations seriously, investigating them properly and doing everything possible to find legitimate cases of fraud, and he told investigators that he relayed all of that to Trump a few weeks ago. after the elections, the sources said.
Similarly, as ABC News sources describe, even though Meadows told investigators that Giuliani never presented evidence of significant fraud in the election, his book refers to Giuliani’s efforts to expose “the fraud and tricks.” dirty on election night.
“The people who rigged this election knew that eventually these irregularities would come to light… [So] “They carried out the operation and then attacked anyone who dared to ask questions about what they had done,” his book says.
Meadows went even further while promoting his book in right-wing media in November 2021. When asked by a podcast host if he believes the 2020 election result was fraudulent, Meadows responded, “I think there are several fraudulent states.” . …I have seen at least illegal activity in Pennsylvania. [and] in Georgia”, referring to two key states that ensured Biden’s arrival at the White House.
Under penalty of perjury, Meadows offered a very different assessment to Smith’s investigators, telling them that he has never seen any evidence of fraud that could undermine the outcome of the election, sources told ABC News.
“I guess these people are more upset”
The final report of the US House of Representatives committee investigating the January 6, 2021The attacks on the US Capitol accused Meadows of including “a series of intentional falsehoods” in his book, but the committee’s report focused on allegations about Trump’s actions on that fateful day, not claims about the election in general.
Parts of what Meadows told investigators appear to align with broader testimony that other senior White House aides, including Meadows’ former aide Cassidy Hutchinson, provided to the House committee, describing a president seemingly hesitant when it came to to take decisive action to stop the violent mob of January 6. , 2021.
Sources said Meadows confirmed that at one point, as the riot was unfolding, Trump took a call with then-House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and told McCarthy: “I guess these people are more upset than you”.
However, based on what Meadows told investigators, Trump appeared to grow increasingly concerned as he learned more about what was happening at the Capitol, and Trump was visibly shaken when he heard that someone had been shot there, the sources said. .
Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt was fatally shot as she tried to pass through a barricaded entrance near the House chamber. Other Trump supporters suffered fatal injuries that day and one law enforcement officer died after trying to defend the Capitol.
Meadows has not been charged in Smith’s federal case, but has instead been charged (along with Trump, Giuliani and 16 others) by Georgia authorities for allegedly attempting annul the election results In this state. Four of the defendants have already pleaded guilty and agreed to testify for the prosecution, while the others, including Meadows, Trump and Giuliani, have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial.
Meadows attempted to have the Georgia case against him moved to federal court, but that attempt was denied. He is now appealing that decision.
From 2013 to 2020, Meadows represented North Carolina in Congress, where he also led the conservative House Freedom Caucus for two years.
Under Smith’s team’s immunity order, information Meadows provided to the grand jury earlier this year cannot be used against him in a federal proceeding.
Trump has pleaded not guilty in the federal case against him related to the election.
A spokesperson for Smith and an attorney for Meadows declined to comment to ABC News for this story. A spokesperson for Trump’s presidential campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.