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Classified Russian Election Meddling Intel Vanished From Trump White House: Report

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A binder containing highly classified information regarding Russia’s efforts to meddle with the 2016 election disappeared from the West Wing at the end of Donald Trump’s presidency —- and has never been found, according to a report from CNN

The binder, described as 10 inches thick and containing a trove of information on the FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” Russia investigation, was moved from the CIA’s headquarters to the White House days before Trump left office so the former president could declassify its contents.

According to a Jan. 2021 White House memo issued the day before President Biden’s inauguration, Trump wrote that he had personally requested and received “a binder of materials related to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation. Portions of the documents in the binder have remained classified and have not been released to the Congress or the public.” 

“I determined that the materials in that binder should be declassified to the maximum extent possible,” Trump wrote. 

Sources tell CNN that the declassification order caused chaos within the White House. The binder reportedly contained extremely sensitive, raw intelligence on Russia gathered by the U.S. and NATO allies. As White House lawyers scrambled to appropriately redact its contents — and retrieve improperly redacted copies — the original, unredacted binder vanished. 

Despite Trump’s order, the Justice Department has yet to make the documents available to the public. The binder was not identified among the hundreds of classified documents found in Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago during a 2022 search by the FBI.

According to transcripts released by the Jan. 6 committee last year, in closed-door testimony, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson told the committee she was “almost positive” the binder went home with former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows

“I don’t think that would have been something that he would have destroyed. It was not returned anywhere, and it never left our office to go internally anywhere. It stayed in our safe in the office safe most of the time,” Hutchinson said, adding that she realized the binder was no longer in the safe on her last day at the White House. 

Hutchinson also told the committee that Meadows had fiercely guarded the original, unredacted copy of the binder. “He wanted to keep that one close hold,” she said. “He didn’t want that one to be widely known about. I just know Mr. Meadows. He wouldn’t have had that one copied unless he did it on his own.” 

Attorneys for Meadows strongly denied the claims. “Mr. Meadows was keenly aware of and adhered to requirements for the proper handling of classified material, any such material that he handled or was in his possession has been treated accordingly and any suggestion that he is responsible for any missing binder or other classified information is flat wrong,” Meadows’ attorney George Terwilliger said in a statement to CNN.

While Trump has not been directly linked to the binder’s disappearance, Rolling Stone reported last year that in the final days of his presidency, Trump told advisers he needed to preserve documents related to Russia to prevent their destruction by his enemies. 

Sources told Rolling Stone that the former president raised concerns that the incoming Biden administration would seek to “shred,” bury, or destroy documents containing “evidence” that Trump was somehow wronged by federal investigations into Russian election interference. 

Intelligence officials had long resisted Trump’s efforts to declassify the document and continued to thwart him after he left office. Several of the hastily redacted versions of the binder are now housed in the National Archives, and it’s certainly possible that if Trump regains the presidency in 2024 he will revive his efforts to secure the release of their contents. 

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