As he continues to investigate the matter of classified documents former president Donald Trump illegally removed from the White House and took with him to Mar-a-Lago when he left office, Special Counsel Jack Smith is focusing in on Russia as the motive for why the failed ex-president took thousands of secret files and stored them at his Palm Beach golf resort.
In what may wind up being the greatest irony of all, according to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Murray Waas, Special Counsel Smith and a grand jury he has impaneled believe Trump’s obsession with Russia led him to steal the information.
As he left office, Waas has learned, Trump desperately tried to declassify thousands of pages of secret documents that detailed Russia’s efforts to help defeat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.
But Trump was stymied in his efforts to make the records public, leading the outgoing president to rage to aides that the documents would never see the light of day.
Now, sources close to Special Counsel Jack Smith’s investigation tell me that prosecutors have questioned at least three people about whether Trump’s frustrations may have been a motive in Trump taking thousands of pages of classified papers from the White House to Mar-A-Largo, in potential violation of federal law. One of those people was compelled to testify before a federal grand jury, the sources say.
The sources say that prosecutors appear to believe the episode may be central to determining Trump’s intent for his unauthorized removal from the White House of the papers. Insight into the president’s frame of mind—his intent and motivation, are likely to be the foundational building blocks of any case that the special counsel considers seeking against Trump.
That has led Smith to take a close look at conversations between the White House counsel, the Justice Department, and then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in the last frantic hours of the Trump administration.
The sources familiar with some aspects of the special counsel’s investigation further disclosed to me that prosecutors sought information regarding the following issues: the witnesses were asked about any conversations they personally had with then-president Trump or any of their White House colleagues about the Russia papers; they were asked about conversations between senior Justice Department officials and attorneys with the White House counsel’s office, including two former senior lawyers in the office, John Eisenberg and Pat Philbin, regarding Trump’s presidential order to declassify the Russia papers; and they also were asked about the circumstances surrounding a memo written by Trump’s then Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, the day following Trump’s declassification order, in which Meadows appeared to reverse course and related that the papers would not be released before the concerns of other agencies regarding the Privacy Act were fully assuaged.
“It was very clear from what they asked that their emphasis was on Trump and Meadows,” one person said.
Another former aide to Trump, Kash Patel, has publicly stated that he saw all of the records the disgraced ex-president wanted declassified, telling Breitbart:
So it was Russia that helped elect Trump, Russia that led to his impeachment, and Russia that may wind up sending him to prison for the rest of his life if Smith’s investigation proves Russiagate was what Trump clung to even after he left the White House.
Right about now, Donald Trump is probably wishing he had never heard of Russia or his BFF, Vladimir Putin.