On December 15, CNN reported on their extensive investigation into a missing binder of U.S. intelligence on Russia’s 2016 election interference efforts.
In the tumultuous twilight of Donald Trump’s presidency, a 10-inch thick binder containing highly classified information related to Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election went missing. This intelligence, first reported by CNN, was considered sensitive due to its inclusion of national security secrets from the U.S. and its allies. The binder was last seen in the White House during Trump’s final days, where it was brought upon his directive to declassify documents connected to the FBI’s Russia investigation.
The binder, which included other materials from the FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation, sparked alarm among intelligence officials over the potential exposure of sources and methods. Senate Intelligence Committee leaders were briefed on the matter last year. Despite this, the intelligence has not been located in the two-plus years since Trump left office.
The controversial binder’s roots can be traced to 2018 when Devin Nunes, then Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, led Republicans in crafting a classified report. This report alleged bias in the Obama administration’s intelligence analysis, claiming it was skewed to suggest that Russian President Vladimir Putin aimed to aid Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 election.
In a unique security arrangement, the House Republicans placed the report in a safe, which was then stored inside a CIA vault. Nunes, who has since become the CEO of Trump’s media company, dismissed CNN’s questions by mocking them for focusing on”secret Trump binders.”
The binder’s disappearance and the concerns over handling classified information have led to multiple news outlets, including The New York Times and Reuters, reporting on the potential risks of a leak. Mark Meadows, Trump’s last chief of staff, was involved in handling the binder. Meadows’ aide, Cassidy Hutchinson, testified to Congress that she believed Meadows took the binder with him when he left the White House, a claim his lawyer denies.
Meanwhile, Trump and his allies have been pursuing releasing a redacted version of the binder. John Solomon, a conservative journalist appointed by Trump to access records from his presidency, sued the Justice Department and National Archives for access to the documents. The unredacted binder’s whereabouts remain unknown, and U.S. officials have declined to discuss any efforts to locate it. The classified intelligence from the 2016 election assessment has also become a point of interest in Trump’s defense against charges related to efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
This account is based on interviews CNN conducted with sources familiar with the matter, none of whom could provide conclusive information about the binder’s current location or the exact circumstances of its disappearance.