Missing binder at center of new claim that CIA

Missing binder at center of new claim that CIA drummed up spy operation on Trump’s 2016 campaign.

An aerial view of former President Donald Trumps Mar-a-Lago estate is seen Aug. 10, 2022, in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

An aerial view of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate is seen Aug. 10, 2022, in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File) more >

By Susan Ferrechio - The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 14, 2024

FBI agents raiding former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in August 2022 may have been hunting for a 10-inch binder of declassified information detailing how former CIA Director John O. Brennan ordered the initial spying operation into Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

A new bombshell report upends the Obama administration’s explanation for how and why it began Crossfire Hurricane, its secret counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign.

The authors suggest that the FBI may have been trying to keep the information secret in its sweeping search for the binder.

“There has been widespread speculation that this binder was the reason, or a reason, for the FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago,” the report’s co-author Michael Shellenberger told Fox News.

Mr. Shellenberger wrote the report with two other independent journalists. They relied on a source close to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence who said committee staffers uncovered evidence that Mr. Brennan asked the Five Eyes intelligence alliance to spy on 26 Trump campaign associates in the months leading up to the election.

Mr. Brennan allegedly made the request in March 2016 when he led the spy agency and when Mr. Trump had greatly expanded his lead in the Republican presidential primary.

The report contradicts the FBI’s explanation that it began spying on Mr. Trump’s campaign in July 2016. The agency has said it started the investigation only after receiving unsolicited information from foreign allies who had discovered, incidentally, that Mr. Trump’s advisers were working with Russians to damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

The source said Mr. Brennan, not randomly discovered evidence of collusion, spurred the investigation.

House Republicans have long accused the Obama administration of illegally and baselessly spying on the former president.

“The only thing we got wrong about it is, it was worse than we thought,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican.

The Washington Times contacted the FBI, and a spokesperson declined to comment.

“If the top-secret documents exist proving these charges, they are potentially proof that multiple U.S. intelligence officials broke laws against spying and election interference,” Mr. Shellenberger and the journalists reported.

The day before leaving office, Mr. Trump moved to declassify the binder containing information about the FBI’s secret Crossfire Hurricane investigation and its origins.

The CIA has kept much of the information in the binder secret, according to the source, and the location of the binder is unknown, even to the former president, say those connected to him.

America First Legal, led by Mr. Trump’s former White House policy director, Stephen Miller, sued the National Archives and Records Administration for the material in March 2023 on behalf of reporter John Solomon.

The government argued that access to the material should be denied because “the record received from the White House on January 20, 2021, was not the same as the ‘binder’ that existed at the White House” and Mr. Trump’s staff “altered the collection and transferred a different, diminished set of materials” to the Department of Justice.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has not ruled on the matter. America First Legal has asked the court to grant access to information to determine how the Justice Department and National Archives handled the records after Mr. Trump left office.

Special prosecutor John Durham investigated the origins of Crossfire Hurricane for four years and concluded in a report in May that the FBI lacked “any actual evidence of collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russians to justify launching their secret investigation.

Allegations that Mr. Trump colluded with Russians to win the presidency, and even claims that Mr. Trump was a Russian agent or was acting on behalf of President Vladimir Putin, dogged most of his presidency.

After months of negotiations, the FBI raided Mr. Trump’s Palm Beach mansion on Aug. 8, 2022, to retrieve boxes of documents that he took from the White House when he left office.

The agents spent hours scouring the property and seized 36 items, including boxes and containers holding classified records.

Special counsel Jack Smith later filed charges against Mr. Trump. The former president faces 40 criminal counts related to retaining national defense information under the Espionage Act and obstruction.

Two weeks after the raid, RealClearInvestigations reported that the 30 agents who conducted the Mar-a-Lago search came from Washington and were from the same counterintelligence division that conducted the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.

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