By Jamie Gangel, Kristen Holmes, Jeremy Herb and Evan Perez, CNN
Within a week of FBI research of the former president donald trumpIn the resort town of Mar-a-Lago, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows handed over to the National Archives texts and emails he had not previously handed over since his time in administration, sources familiar with the matter told CNN.
Meadows’ submission to the Archives was part of a request for all electronic communications covered by the Presidential Archives Act. The Archives had realized earlier this year that they didn’t have all of Meadows after seeing what he had handed over to House Select Committee inquest on January 6, 2021. Details of Meadows’ submissions to the Archives and the engagement between the two parties have not previously been reported.
“It could be a coincidence, but less than a week after the Aug. 8 search for Mar-a-Lago, a lot more started coming in,” a source familiar with the talks said.
The records Meadows turned over to the Archives were unclassified, and the situation is markedly different from the Archives’ efforts to retrieve Trump’s federal records and his referral to the Justice Department earlier this year when classified materials were discovered among the documents the agency recovered from Mar-a-Lago.
The source familiar with the talks said the Archives viewed Meadows as cooperative, even though the process got off to a slow start.
“That’s how it’s supposed to work,” the source added, saying it wasn’t the kind of situation that should be referred to the Justice Department.
Another person familiar with the matter said the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago had nothing to do with Meadows’ decision to turn the documents over to the Archives, as that was a separate discussion.
Still, it’s a tricky position for Trump’s former chief of staff, as Meadows has also been engaged in efforts to get Trump to return documents to the National Archives since last year, sources told CNN. Meadows is one of Trump’s delegates to the Archives, and he became involved in the summer of 2021 after being contacted by another delegate, Trump’s former deputy White House adviser Pat Philbin.
While at Mar-a-Lago last summer, Meadows spoke with Trump about the documents the Archives were seeking to retrieve, sources said. Meadows has continued to work with the Archives in its efforts to recover documents since then, the sources say.
A Meadows spokesperson 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 Archives’ long efforts to recover Trump’s federal records that led to the FBI’s unprecedented search last month of the former president’s residence.
Trump turned over 15 boxes of documents to the Archives in January, but additional documents with classified marks remained at Mar-a-Lago. Federal investigators sought to have the documents turned over in June through a grand jury subpoena and obtained a search warrant last month after establishing evidence that all of the classified documents had not been provided.
The Justice Department said in unsealed court documents 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, along with more than 11,000 unclassified government documents, news clippings, gifts and clothes.
The Washington Post first reported that Meadows turned over documents to the Archives last month.
In recent months, Trump has been advised to cut off contact with Meadows, whose actions before and on the day of the attack on the U.S. Capitol were scrutinized by the House panel investigating Jan. 6, sources said. A source close to Trump said that while the former president did not completely cut ties with Meadows, Trump complained about Meadows in conversations 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’ engagement with Meadows over electronic communications in its possession began when it realized that the January 6 Committee had obtained documents that the Archives did not have and which they believed were within the scope of the law on the presidential archives. CNN earlier this year reported the contents of more than 2,300 text messages that Meadows selectively provided to the House panel between Election Day 2020 and President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
In addition to text messages, Meadows also recently provided the Archives with a dozen emails, a source said.
“This is a category of communication that was on a personal device, but you are expected to put it back,” the source said. “He had an obligation to ensure that his PRA documents were kept and handed over.”
The back and forth between the Archives and Meadows has been going on for some time, and it was several months between the first contact and the first batch that was delivered, according to a source.
Over the past few weeks, Meadows’ attorneys have arranged to turn over to the Archives documents that Meadows had previously shared with Congress for the Jan. 6 select committee’s investigation. Meadows agreed to provide the material to the Archives, although his legal team maintained that they believed it was not subject to the Presidential Archives Act.
After the Archives made their request, Meadows and his attorneys reviewed his communications and turned over what they believed was covered by the Presidential Records Act, a source said. The law has exclusions detailing materials that do not need to be provided to the Archives, such as messages that were primarily personal or political in nature.
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