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Intelligence on Russia disappeared during Trump admin, report says

Cassidy Hutchinson says she saw Mark Meadows leave with classified binder, his lawyer says this is ‘flat wrong’

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Friday 15 December 2023 16:17 GMT
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Towards the end of Donald Trump’s presidency, a binder holding sensitive classified information regarding Russian election interference disappeared.

The incident, first reported by CNN, spread alarm among intelligence officials that the information could be shared more widely than intended – information including national security secrets from the US and its closest allies.

Senate Intelligence Committee leaders were briefed on the matter last year. But in the more than two years that have passed since the end of the Trump administration, the intelligence doesn’t appear to have been located.

The missing binder held intelligence that the US and its NATO allies had collected on both Russians and the country’s agents, such as sources and methods that helped the US government determine that Russian President Vladimir Putin had tried to help Mr Trump win the 2016 election.

Mr Putin had a years-long feud with Mr Trump’s opponent, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Both lawmakers and congressional staff with top-secret security clearances were only allowed to see the material at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, just outside of Washington DC.

The last time the binder was spotted was in the White House in the waning days of the Trump presidency after Mr Trump had ordered that it be taken there to allow him to declassify a number of documents connected to the Russia investigation conducted by the FBI.

Led by then-chief of staff Mark Meadows, the binder was reviewed by GOP aides who worked to redact the most sensitive information in order for it to be declassified and shared with the public.

The information regarding Russia only made up a small part of the binder, which has been described as being 10 inches thick.

Copies were made of the information to be sent out to GOP lawmakers and rightwing members of the media but they were hastily pulled back as White House lawyers asked for further retractions.

Only minutes before the inauguration of President Joe Biden, Mr Meadows headed to the Department of Justice to deliver a copy in person for a final review. Despite the order from Mr Trump to declassify the documents, the department still hasn’t released all of the files.

An unredacted copy of the binder went missing in the final hours of the Trump presidency and how that happened remains unclear.

Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchinson told Congress that she thinks Mr Meadows took the binder with him, saying that it had been kept in his safe and that she spotted him depart the White House with it.

“I am almost positive it went home with Mr Meadows,” she told the January 6 Committee in closed-door testimony, transcripts show.

But Mr Meadows’s lawyer, George Terwilliger, told CNN this is “flat wrong”.

“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,” he told the network. “Anyone and any entity suggesting that he is responsible for anything missing does not have facts and should exercise great care before making false allegations.”

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