Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows presented a short list of people he suspects leaked details about President Donald Trump making an evening trip to the White House bunker in late May 2020 as hundreds of protesters gathered in the streets outside after the police killing of George Floyd.
The episode has become a point of public intrigue and, for Trump, a source of significant frustration as he tasked his top aide with figuring out who tipped off reporters.
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"He demanded to know who leaked the story, and it was up to me to figure it out," Meadows wrote in his new book The Chief's Chief, describing Trump's reaction to a web version of a New York Times report that had the president "furious."
Meadows was not in Washington, D.C., when the trip to the bunker happened. He traveled to Atlanta for his daughter's wedding. But Meadows said he would "deal with it" once he got back into town.
"To this day I do not know how this information got out, but I have my suspicions and it's a short list. I have no doubt that it was leaked by someone who had every intention of hurting the president," he acknowledges.
Meadows notes how everyone has a "theory" about the leak's origins. "If I had to bet, I would say that it was probably Stephanie Grisham, Emma Doyle, or someone from the VP's team."
At the time, Grisham had recently stepped down as White House press secretary but remained chief of staff to first lady Melania Trump, and Doyle was deputy chief of staff for policy to the first lady after a stint as White House principal deputy chief of staff.
Grisham resigned from the Trump administration on Jan. 6, when rioters stormed the Capitol complex and disrupted lawmakers as they worked to certify President Joe Biden's electoral victory. She wrote a tell-all book, I’ll Take Your Questions Now: What I Saw at the Trump White House, which was met with an embittered response by the former first lady whose office said her book uses "mistruth and betrayal" in seeking to "gain relevance and money at the expense of Mrs. Trump."
Meadows said he immediately surmised "the leaker was probably not someone with firsthand knowledge of Secret Service protocols."
He said Trump didn't have a choice as the White House entered "Code Red" with protesters jumping the fence on the Treasury Department's side of the compound, and "they were running toward the Oval Office."
"I'm sure that if President Trump had the choice, he would have headed out the lawn and knocked their heads in one by one," Meadows writes.
"But he didn't have a choice. When it comes to the United States Secret Service, no one does," he adds, noting that Trump complied after the Secret Service asked him to head downstairs to the White House bunker.
In the time since, there have been reports about Trump saying he wanted the leaker prosecuted, and a separate book from Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender claimed the former president said he wanted the leaker charged with treason and "executed." Liz Harrington, Trump's spokeswoman, said the former president "never said this or suggested it to anyone," according to CNN.
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Meadows ultimately shrugs off the controversy.
"But it doesn't matter much now, and in truth, it didn't matter then either," he writes. "For the moment, we had much bigger problems to deal with."