RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff to President Donald Trump, won't face voter fraud charges related to his 2020 registration and absentee vote in North Carolina, the state's attorney general announced Friday.
Meadows, a former western North Carolina congressman who worked for Trump during his final months in the Oval Office, was an outspoken proponent of the ex-president's baseless claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him. Meadows drew the attention of government attorneys when details that he was simultaneously registered to vote in North Carolina and two other states surfaced.
Based largely on the findings of a voter fraud investigation completed by the State Bureau of Investigation, Attorney General Josh Stein told The Associated Press that there isn’t sufficient evidence to warrant prosecution of Meadows or his wife, Debra.
"Our conclusion was ... they had arguments that would help them if a case was brought such that we didn’t believe we could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they had engaged in intentional voter fraud," Stein, a Democrat, said in an interview.
Public records showed Meadows, a Republican, listed a mobile home in Scaly Mountain, North Carolina, that he did not own as his physical address when he registered to vote on Sept. 19, 2020, while he was still serving as chief of staff. Meadows cast a North Carolina absentee ballot by mail for the November general election, when Trump won the battleground state by just over 1 percentage point.
The New Yorker, which first reported earlier this year on Meadows' 2020 registration, said the previous property owner told the magazine that Meadows’ wife had rented the property for a short period and spent only one or two nights there.
Stein said career prosecutors within his department recommended that charges not be pursued. In a memo to Stein, those attorneys said evidence showed Meadows and his wife had signed a yearlong lease for the Scaly Mountain residence that was provided by their landlord. Cellphone records indicated Debra Meadows was in and around Scaly Mountain in October 2020, the memo said, and her husband qualified for a residency exception in state law because he was in public service in Washington.
Election officials interpret state law so that a person can register at a “permanent place of abode” at least 30 days before an election. Completing a registration form fraudulently or falsely is a low-grade felony.
Although Mark Meadows “was almost certainly never physically present at the Scaly Mountain address,” the memo reads, “the factors weighing in favor of residence in Macon County outnumber the factors weighing against residence.”
Ben Williamson, a spokesperson for Mark Meadows, said in a text that he had no comment on Stein's decision. Mark and Debra Meadows had declined to be interviewed by the SBI, the memo said.
Stein's special prosecutions office within the Department of Justice took over the investigation at the request of the district attorney in Macon County, where Scaly Mountain is located, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) southwest of Asheville. The DA recused herself because Meadows had contributed to her campaign and appeared in political ads endorsing her. The special prosecutions office asked the SBI to investigate, and the agency concluded its initial work last month.
By April, the Macon County Board of Elections removed Meadows from the local voter rolls.
Public records also indicated that Meadows was registered to vote in Virginia in 2021 and in South Carolina this March, after he and his wife purchased a home there.
Meadows began arousing public suspicion of widespread voter fraud leading up to the 2020 general election as the polls showed Trump trailing President Joe Biden. He repeated those unfounded claims throughout the election cycle and in the aftermath of the race as Trump insisted the election was rife with fraud.
Election officials from both parties, as well as judges and Trump’s own attorney general, concluded there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.
Meadows was mentioned prominently in the U.S. House committee that examined the events leading up to the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021. While urging federal prosecutors to "hold accountable” those responsible for conspiring “to put our democracy at risk,” Stein said in a news release that those matters weren't relevant to the fraud allegations that his office reviewed.
Stein told the AP that although his investigation is over, the matter could be reopened if evidence from investigations in other jurisdictions are revealed.