Trump chief Mark Meadows testified in 2020 election case after immunity order

Meadows testified to a grand jury about the ex-president’s efforts to overturn 2020 elections after being forced by a court order

Trump chief Mark Meadows testified in 2020 election case after immunity order
Meadows testified to a grand jury about the ex-president’s efforts to overturn 2020 elections after being forced by a court order

Donald Trump’s former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows testified to a federal grand jury about efforts by the former president to overturn the 2020 election results pursuant to a court order that granted him limited immunity from prosecution, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The immunity – a powerful tool that forces witnesses to testify on the promise that they will not be charged on their statements or information derived from their statements – came after a legal battle in March with special counsel prosecutors, who had subpoenaed Meadows.

Trump’s lawyers attempted to block Meadows’ testimony partially on executive privilege grounds. However, the chief US district judge overseeing the grand jury ruled that executive privilege was inapplicable and compelled Meadows to appear before the grand jury in Washington, the people said.

Meadows appears to have then asserted his fifth amendment right against self-incrimination at his appearance. At some point, Howell granted a request from prosecutors to give Meadows limited-use immunity, the people familiar with the matter said.

That Meadows testified pursuant to a court order suggests prosecutors in the office of special counsel Jack Smith were determined to learn what information he declined to initially provide because of self-incrimination concerns – but it does not mean he became a cooperator.

Typically, under limited-use immunity orders, witnesses provide limited statements. With the payoff potentially small and with the increased difficulty that comes from charging immunity recipients in the future, the justice department is broadly averse to seeking such orders.

The approval must also come from the top echelons of the justice department, according to guidelines, and the preferred method for federal prosecutors to obtain testimony is to have defendants plead guilty, and then have them offer cooperation for a reduced sentence.

When prosecutors ultimately brought charges in the federal 2020 election subversion case in Washington, Trump was charged as a single defendant accused of conspiracy to defraud the United States, obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy against rights.

Neither spokesperson for the special counsel nor a lawyer for Meadows could immediately be reached for comment.

Meadows was not indicted in Washington, but was charged alongside Trump and other top allies by the Fulton county district attorney Fani Willis in mid-August. He was charged on Rico and conspiracy charges for trying to overturn the 2020 election results in the state of Georgia.

The news of how Meadows ended up testifying to the grand jury, earlier reported by ABC News, comes after a slew of lower-level co-defendants – including former Trump lawyers Kenneth Chesebro, Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis – recently took plea deals with no jail time.

Like Trump, Meadows pleaded not guilty in the Fulton county case. Last month, a federal judge denied Meadows’ motion to transfer the case from state to federal court. Meadows appealed that decision to the eleventh circuit, and oral arguments are scheduled to take place in December.

“I told ABC that their story was largely inaccurate. People will have to judge for themselves the decision to run it anyway.” George Terwilliger, Mark Meadows lawyer told CBS News in a statement.

It was unclear how valuable the information Meadows provided to prosecutors will actually be for trial purposes. In the Mar-a-Lago classified documents investigation, the justice department approved immunity for the Trump adviser Kash Patel, but the information Patel provided was nowhere in the indictment.

The testimony from Meadows is also unlikely to materially affect Trump’s defense. Trump has consistently argued there were some advisers who said the election was stolen, and some who said it was not – and he agreed with the people alleging there was outcome-determinative election fraud.

Still, Meadows could have been useful to prosecutors because they needed to establish before Trump’s indictment whether he would be an adversarial witness, and they needed to lock in his testimony before trial.

ABC News reported Meadows testified that he repeatedly told Trump in the immediate aftermath of the election that the allegations about fraud were unsubstantiated. This could bolster their case that Trump pushed to reverse his defeat with the necessary mens rea, or corrupt intent.

Meadows was particularly involved in Trump’s increasingly desperate attempts to overturn the 2020 election results, from the fake electors scheme to Trump’s pressure on the then vice-president Mike Pence to stop the congressional certification of the results.

As Trump’s chief of staff, Meadows was also around Trump on January 6 as the then White House counsel Pat Cipollone implored Trump not to go to the Capitol for fear of being “charged with every crime imaginable”, as Meadows’ former aide Cassidy Hutchinson recounted to the January 6 committee.