In the final days of then-President Donald Trump’s term, a thick binder of raw Russian intelligence, last seen at the White House, went missing, according to a CNN report on Friday. This revelation sheds light on Trump’s persistent attempts to undermine the intelligence community’s stance on Russia and offers potential insights into his unfinished agenda if he secures a second term.
CNN’s detailed report, authored by Jeremy Herb, Katie Bo Lillis, Natasha Bertrand, Evan Perez, and Zachary Cohen, meticulously traces the journey of the binder from the CIA’s secure vault to the White House, where Trump sought to declassify documents related to the FBI’s Russia investigation.
Key Points from the Report:
- Contents of the Missing Binder: The 10-inch-thick binder contained raw intelligence gathered by the US and NATO allies on Russians and Russian agents. This intelligence included sources and methods crucial to the US government’s assessment that Russian President Vladimir Putin aimed to assist Trump in winning the 2016 election.
- Origins of the Binder: The binder’s origins date back to 2018 when Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, led by Chairman Devin Nunes, compiled a classified report challenging the intelligence community’s assessment of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
- Transfer to the White House: Trump ordered the binder’s transfer to the White House to declassify documents related to the FBI’s Russia investigation. A team led by then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows worked on redacting sensitive information from the binder for declassification.
- Frantic Final Days: The final days of Trump’s presidency were marked by a flurry of activity. On the day before leaving office, Trump issued an order to declassify most of the binder’s contents. However, attempts to distribute copies were halted as White House lawyers demanded additional redactions.
- Missing Binder and Ongoing Investigation: An unredacted version of the binder, containing classified raw intelligence, went missing in the chaotic final hours of the Trump administration. Efforts to locate the missing binder have continued, with intelligence officials briefing the Senate Intelligence Committee about ongoing retrieval efforts.
- Legal Implications: While there are concerns about the mishandling of classified information, the missing binder does not seem to be part of the criminal case against Trump for mishandling classified documents.
- Trump’s Continued Interest: In June 2022, Trump named conservative journalist John Solomon and former Trump official Kash Patel as his representatives to the National Archives, aiming to gain access to the declassified documents, including the missing binder.
Despite the passage of time, the mystery surrounding the missing binder remains, raising questions about the potential implications for national security and Trump’s persistent efforts to shape the narrative around Russian interference in the 2016 election.