While Trump was secretly uploading documents, Mike Ellis was hoarding an NSA document in the White House

The WaPo continues to have the history of the Archives’ efforts to recover documents removed from the White House by Donald Trump. Yesterday they reported that some of the documents Trump got away with were marked as classified, including Top Secret.

Some of the White House documents that Donald Trump inappropriately brought to his Mar-a-Lago residence were clearly marked as classified, including documents at the “top secret” level, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The existence of clearly marked classified documents in the treasury – which has not been previously reported – is likely to intensify the legal pressure that Trump or his aides could face, and raises new questions about why the documents were removed from the White House.

While it is unclear how many classified documents were among those received by the National Archives and Records Administration, some bore markings indicating that the information was extremely sensitive and would be limited to a small group of officials authorized to view information. also highly classified, both said people familiar with the matter.

But the most interesting part of the latest WaPo is a description of Trump packing boxes without letting his closest aides look at them (I assume that means repacking at Mar-a-Lago).

It is unclear precisely who packed the classified documents to Mar-a-Lago, or how they got there in the first place. Trump was tight-lipped about packing boxes recovered from Mar-a-Lago last month and didn’t let other aides – including some of his most senior advisers – look at them, according to people close to him. .

As this story has snowballed, I can’t get a detail out of my head from the IG report on the abortive hiring of White House attorney Mike Ellis as general counsel of the NSA.

The DOD IG found that hiring Ellis itself was not a problem. But he also found that NSA Director Paul Nakasone correctly responded by delaying the process when Ellis was involved in two security incidents in the days following Jan. 6. In both cases, Ellis was handling NSA information inappropriately.

First security incident

An NSA employee received a controlled and classified NSA document notebook on January 7, 2021, from a State Department official who was not authorized to access this information. An initial review by the NSA further revealed that several copies of the notebook had been produced without NSA authorization. This event raised concerns that other people possessed copies of these sensitive documents without NSA clearance.

[NSA Deputy Director George] Barnes told us that “[they] spent the last week or so of administration trying to figure out who had them, where they were, and trying to get them back under positive control before the administration members left. NSA officials received information on January 13, 2021, that Mr. Ellis created or directed the copy of these notebooks of documents containing compartmentalized and classified information without the knowledge, consent or control of the NSA.

Second security incident

On January 8, 2021, an NSA employee attempted to retrieve an NSA document from Mr. Ellis that contained information about a classified, controlled and compartmentalized NSA program “of some of the most sensitive information the NSA possesses”. Mr. Barnes told us that Mr. Ellis refused to return the document, kept it for the White House archives and, based on what the NSA employee had seen, placed the document in a container that did not meet the security storage requirements for such a document. sensible program. Mr. Barnes told us that he contacted Mr. Eisenberg on January 9, 2021 for assistance in obtaining the document, and the document was returned to the NSA on January 14, 2021. Mr. Barnes said: “People in the White House were all leaving, so every day new members were leaving and so we were prioritizing identifying our documents that needed to be put on positive control and accounted for.” [italicized brackets and bold mine]

When Nakasone was asked about this by the IG, he explained that the intelligence deals with a particular foreign actor.

I learned…we had questions about how Mr. Ellis handled our most sensitive information who is dealing with a foreign actor when he was in the White House. …and I’m not able to get all the details until Tuesday [January 19]. … I am … ​​increasingly worried … I have an OGC that I said could be hired, now we have concerns about his clearance. We have concerns about merit. We are concerned about an ongoing investigation by the DoD IG. And so, my feeling was…let’s get this all sorted out…before he actually becomes the National Security Agency’s General Counsel. [emphasis mine]

So, just as Trump was packing documents to take with him following his failed coup attempt, Mike Ellis was refusing to return an NSA document from the White House.

And the NSA’s concerns, even then, were about the possibility of White House staffers leaving and those documents going missing.

Update: TF reminded me that in December 2020 (so during the period when Ellis’ nomination was pending), Mike Flynn and his friends came up with a plan to use NSA data to try to prove foreign interference in the election, a plan that Mike Lindell was trying to implement in January.

The memo used the banal language of government bureaucracy, but the proposal it advocated was extreme: President Donald Trump should invoke the extraordinary powers of the National Security Agency and Department of Defense to scrutinize electronic communications. raw to show that foreign powers had intervened. in the 2020 election to help Joe Biden win.

Evidence of foreign interference “would support next steps to defend the Constitution in a manner superior to current legal remedies reserved for civilians,” argued the Dec. 18, 2020, memo, which was circulated among Trump allies.

The document, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, outlined a plan for the president to appoint three men to lead the effort. One was a lawyer attached to a military intelligence unit; another was an army veteran who was fired from his post on the National Security Council after claiming that Trump was under attack by deep state forces, including “globalists” and “Islamists.”

[snip]

[North Dakota Senator Kevin] Cramer said Del Rosso sent the memo to his office after a Jan. 4 meeting the pair attended at the Trump International Hotel, hosted by MyPillow chief executive Mike Lindell, a prominent supporter of the false fraud allegations. Trump election.

Cramer and Sen. Cynthia M. Lummis (R-Wyo.) joined about 20 other people crammed into a downstairs hotel conference room to discuss the voter fraud allegations, according to Cramer and a Lummis’ assistant. Attendees recalled that Johnson was also present, via videoconference. Details of the meeting, which took place two days before the attack on the US Capitol, were not previously released. The meeting was similar to a briefing held at a congressional office building the next day for House members.

Michael Flynn, who resigned as Trump’s national security adviser in 2017 and had advocated using the military to ‘jumpstart’ the election in battleground states, also invited at least one senator and its staff, according to a person familiar with the meeting. Flynn did not respond to requests for comment.

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