By Jonathan Landay
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A binder holding top-secret intelligence that contributed to a U.S. assessment that Russia tried to help throw the 2016 U.S. election to Donald Trump has been missing since the last days of his presidency, a source familiar with the issue said.
The Russia intelligence was included with other documents in a binder that Trump directed the CIA to send to the White House just before he left office so he could declassify materials related to the FBI probe of Russian interference in the 2016 vote, the source said.
The Russia materials included highly classified raw intelligence gathered by the U.S. and NATO allies, fueling fears that the methods used to collect the information could be compromised, the source added.
Trump’s presidential campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence in January 2017 released an assessment that found Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government conducted a campaign of disinformation and cyberattacks to “help … Trump’s election chances” by denigrating his Democratic foe, Hillary Clinton.
Russia denies interfering in the election.
The disappearance of the binder ignited such deep concerns that the government last year offered to brief the Senate Intelligence Committee, which accepted, the source said.
CNN first reported the missing binder.
In a federal court document filed in August by John Solomon, a conservative journalist, the binder was described as 10-inches thick. Trump appointed Solomon to be a representative authorized to access records from his presidency in the National Archives.
The court document said that Mark Meadows, who served as Trump’s last chief of staff, was involved in handling the missing binder and developing with Solomon a strategy to release the materials that Trump planned to declassify.
Meadows did not immediately respond to a request for comment made via the Conservative Partnership Institute, where he is a senior partner.
The source said the binder contained other information related to the FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation, including materials on the origins of the probe collected by Trump aides and botched FBI applications for wiretap warrants.
They also included anti-Trump text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, FBI officials who were involved in the probe, the source said.
Much of that material is not considered sensitive, said the source.
It was covered in a heavily redacted version of the binder that was declassified and posted in five parts on the FBI’s website in 2022.
Trump has repeatedly called the FBI investigation a hoax.
Solomon’s federal court filing said that just before Trump left office after his defeat by U.S. President Joe Biden, Solomon was told by Meadows that Trump intended to order the declassification of the Crossfire Hurricane materials in the binder.
Two days before his term ended, the document said, Trump and Meadows told Solomon that the binder had been declassified. On Jan. 19, Meadows invited Solomon to the White House to review several hundred declassified pages and discuss the materials’ public release, it said.
Copies were provided to Solomon. As he began preparing a story for his website, it continued, he received a call from the White House asking that copies be returned for additional redactions.
“Meadows promised Solomon that he would receive the revised binder,” said the document. “This never happened.”
There has been no trace of the classified version since then.
(Reporting by Jonathan Landay; Additional reporting by Gram Slattery; Editing by Don Durfee and Daniel Wallis)