Parts of a binder containing highly classified information related to the investigation into Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 election went missing in the final days of Donald J. Trump’s presidency, two people familiar with the matter said .
The disappearance of the material, known as the “Crossfire Hurricane” binder for the name given to the FBI investigation, upset national security officials and raised concerns about inappropriate sharing of sensitive information, the agency said. ‘one of the people.
The disappearance of the equipment was reported earlier Friday by CNN. The matter was so concerning to officials that the Senate Intelligence Committee was briefed on it last year, a U.S. official said.
The binder consists of a hodgepodge of documents related to the origins and early stages of the Russia investigation that were assembled by Trump administration officials. They included copies of botched FBI requests for national security surveillance warrants to wiretap former Trump campaign adviser as well as text messages between two FBI officials involved in the investigation, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, expressing his animosity towards Mr. Trump.
The substance of the documents – a redacted version of which has since been made public under the Freedom of Information Act and is published on the FBI website — is not considered particularly sensitive, the official said.
But the raw version of the binder contained details that intelligence agencies said could reveal secret sources and methods. (The publicly available version contains many parts that have been hidden as classified.)
It is unclear whether the missing documents include the entire original binder provided to the White House for Mr. Trump’s team to review and partially declassify before leaving office.
Among other obscure details, it is unclear how many copies were made at the White House or how the government knows one is missing.
The binder has been a recurring source of attention since January 2021, just before Mr. Trump left office. At the time, Mr Trump’s aides prepared redactions of some material in the document because the president – who was obsessed with the Russia investigation and believed his political enemies had used it to harm his presidency – was considering declassifying it and making it public.
Officials made several copies of the redacted version, which some Trump aides planned to make public.
Mr. Trump’s White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, had a copy of the binder documents given to at least one conservative writer, according to testimony and court documents.
But when Justice Department officials expressed concerns that sharing certain documents would violate the Privacy Act, at a time when the department was already being sued by Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page for making some of their texts public, the copies were hastily retrieved. , according to two people familiar with the matter.
Mr. Trump was deeply focused on what was in the binder, one insider said. Even after leaving the White House, Mr. Trump still wanted to make the information in the binder known to the public. He suggested, during an April 2021 interview for a book about the Trump presidency, that Mr. Meadows still had the material.
“I would let you watch them if you wanted,” Mr. Trump said in the interview. “It’s a treasure.”
Mr. Trump did not respond to a question about whether he owned any of the material himself. But when a Trump aide present at the interview asked, “Does Meadows have them?” ” Mr. Trump replied: “Meadows has them. »
“We won that battle by a large margin,” Mr. Trump added, referring to questions about whether his 2016 campaign worked with Russia. “There was no collusion. There was nothing. And I think maybe it was past its peak. This would be a pretty cool book to look at.
George J. Terwilliger III, a lawyer for Mr. Meadows, said the former chief of staff was not responsible for any missing documents. “Mark never took a copy of that binder home with him,” he said.
A person familiar with the matter said shortly after the court-authorized search of Mar-a-Lago in August 2022 by FBI agents looking for classified documents that they found no evidence of the Hurricane Crossfire.
Adding to the confusion over the material and who was in possession of it, a set of Russia investigation documents that Mr. Trump believed he had declassified did not have their classification markings changed when they were turned over to the Archives national, according to one person. with knowledge of the subject.
At the time, Mr. Trump was in conflict with the archives over the reams of presidential documents he took with him when leaving the White House on January 20, 2021, and resisted giving back. So Mr. Trump told his advisers he would return these boxes in exchange for documents relating to Russia.
Aides never followed up on his suggestion.
As the 2020 election approached, John Ratcliffe, Mr. Trump’s then-director of national intelligence, declassified approximately 1,000 pages of intelligence documents related to the Russia investigationthat Trump’s allies used to try to discredit the investigation.
In 2022, Mr. Trump made John Solomon, a conservative writer to whom the binder was briefly given before it was retrieved, one of his representatives at the National Archives. That allowed Mr. Solomon to see Trump’s White House records filed with the agency. He then filed a lawsuit against the government, asking a court to order the Justice Department to send the binder to the archives so he could have access to it.
A court file he submitted in August described the binder as being about 10 inches thick and containing about 2,700 pages. THE version made public comprises fewer than 600 pages, many of which are heavily redacted; It is not clear what exactly explains this discrepancy.
The filing says Mr. Solomon was allowed to look through a version of the binder at the White House on January 19, 2021. The contents, it says, included a 2017 FBI report on his interview with Christopher Steele, the author of an FBI report. dossier of unverified claims about Trump-Russia ties; “mission orders” linked to a confidential FBI human source; “lightly redacted” copies of botched surveillance warrant applications; and text messages between FBI officials.
The filing indicates that Mr. Solomon or an aide had returned to the White House that evening and received a copy of the documents contained in the binder in a paper bag, and that separately, an envelope from the Justice Department containing certain documents had been delivered. at her office.
But as Mr. Solomon’s office scanned the larger set, the filing says, the White House requested that the documents be returned so that some private details could be removed. Mr. Meadows promised Mr. Solomon that he would get the revised binder back, but he never did.
When Mr. Solomon later attempted to view the binder contained in the Trump White House archives at the National Archives, he said: the agency refused him access to a box of 2,700 pages “with different types of classification and declassification markings” which it said it was obliged to treat as highly classified. The agency also told him that it did not have the declassified version of the binder that Mr. Solomon briefly held because the Justice Department still has it.