Russia investigation material disappeared when Trump left office


Material from a folder of highly classified information related to the investigation into Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 election disappeared 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” folder after the name given to the investigation by the FBI, upset national security officials and raised concerns that sensitive information could be shared inappropriately, one of the people said. .

The disappearance of the material was reported Friday morning by CNN. The issue concerned officials so much that the Senate Intelligence Committee was briefed on it last year, a U.S. official said.

The folder consists of a hodgepodge of materials related to the origins and early stages of the Russia investigation that were collected by Trump administration officials. They included copies of failed FBI applications for national security surveillance warrants to intercept the phone of a former Trump campaign adviser, as well as text messages between two FBI officials involved in the investigation, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, expressing animosity. towards Trump.

The content of the material, a redacted version of which has since been made public under the Freedom of Information Act and is posted on the FBI website, is not considered particularly sensitive, the official said.

But the unredacted version contained in the folder contained details that intelligence agencies believe could reveal secret sources and methods. (The publicly available version contains numerous parts that were redacted as classified.)

It is unclear whether the missing material comprises the entire original folder of material provided to the White House for Trump's team to review and declassify in part before leaving office.

Among other murky details, it is not known how many copies were made in the White House or how the government knows that one is missing.

The folder has been a source of recurring attention since January 2021, just before Trump left office. At the time, Trump's advisers prepared redactions of some of the material it contained because the president (who was obsessed with the Russia investigation and believed that his political enemies had used it to damage his presidency) planned to declassify it and do so. public.

Officials made several copies of the redacted version, which some Trump advisers planned to make public.

Trump's White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, gave a copy of the folder's material to at least one conservative writer, according to testimony and court documents.

But when Justice Department officials raised concerns that sharing some of the material would violate the Privacy Act at a time when Strzok and Page were already suing the department for making some of their texts public, copies were hastily recovered. , according to two people familiar with the matter.

Trump was deeply focused on what was in the folder, a person close to him said. Even after leaving the White House, Trump still wanted to bring the information from the folder into public light. He suggested, during an April 2021 interview for a book about the Trump presidency, that Meadows still had the material.

“I would let you look at them if you wanted,” Trump said in the interview. “It's a hidden treasure.”

Trump did not respond to a question about whether he had any of the material himself. But when a Trump aide present at the interview asked, “Does Meadows have them?” Trump responded: “Meadows has them.”

“We had pretty much won that battle,” Trump added, referring to questions about whether his 2016 campaign had worked with Russia. “There was no collusion. There was nothing. And I think maybe he's past his prime. “It would be a great book to read.”

George J. Terwilliger III, Meadows' attorney, said the former chief of staff was not responsible for any missing materials. “Mark never took a copy of that folder home at any time,” 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 for classified documents, that they had not found any Crossfire Hurricane material.

Adding to the confusion about the material and who was in possession of it, a set of documents from the Russia investigation that Trump believed he had declassified did not have their classification markings changed when they were turned over to the National Archives, according to one person. with knowledge of the matter.

At the time, Trump was in a standoff with the archives over the large amount of presidential material he had taken with him when leaving the White House on January 20, 2021, and was reluctant to return it. Trump then told his advisers that he would return those boxes in exchange for the documents related to Russia.

The attendees never followed his suggestion.

In the run-up to the 2020 election, John Ratcliffe, then Trump's director of national intelligence, declassified about 1,000 pages of intelligence materials related to the Russia investigation, which Trump's allies used to try to discredit the investigation.

In 2022, Trump named John Solomon, a conservative writer who had briefly been given the folder before it was recovered, one of his representatives to the National Archives. This allowed Mr. Solomon to view Trump White House records deposited with the agency. He later filed a lawsuit against the government over the folder, seeking access to what he said were declassified documents from the folder that the archives denied him.

A court filing he filed in August described the folder as about 10 inches thick and containing about 2,700 pages. The publicly released version is 585 pages; It is not clear what causes the discrepancy.

The document said that Solomon had been allowed to look through a version of the folder at the White House on January 19, 2021. The contents, it said, included a 2017 FBI report about his interview with Christopher Steele, the author of a dossier of unverified claims about ties between Trump and Russia; “task orders” related to a confidential FBI human source; “lightly redacted” copies of failed surveillance order applications; and text messages between FBI officials.

The file said that Mr. Solomon or an aide had returned to the White House that night and had been given a copy of the materials in the folder in a paper bag, and that an envelope from the Department of Justice had been delivered separately. Justice that contained some of the documents. to his office.

But while Solomon's office was scanning the larger set, according to the document, the White House requested that the documents be returned so that certain private details could be redacted. Meadows promised Solomon that he would get the revised folder back, he said, but he never did.

When Solomon later tried to see the folder inside the Trump White House records at the National Archives, he said, the agency denied him access to a box of 2,700 pages “with different types of classification and declassification marks” that, he said he was forced to treat him as highly classified. The agency also told him that it did not have the declassified version of the folder that Solomon had briefly possessed, because the Justice Department still has it.

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