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Day 595

1/ The FBI found 48 empty folders that contained classified information at Mar-a-Lago. Agents also found 42 empty folders of sensitive document labeled with instructions to return to the staff secretary or a military aide. In all, the Justice Department’s search inventory list said the FBI seized 18 documents marked as top secret, 54 marked as secret, 31 marked as confidential, and 11,179 government documents without classification markings. The Justice Department did not say whether all the contents of the folders had been recovered. (New York Times / CNN / Associated Press)

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Material on foreign nation’s nuclear capabilities seized at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago

Some seized documents were so closely held, only the president, a Cabinet-level or near-Cabinet level official could authorize others to know

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A document describing a foreign government’s military defenses, including its nuclear capabilities, was found by FBI agents who searched former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and private club last month, according to people familiar with the matter, underscoring concerns among U.S. intelligence officials about classified material stashed in the Florida property.

Some of the seized documents detail top-secret U.S. operations so closely guarded that many senior national security officials are kept in the dark about them. Only the president, some members of his Cabinet or a near-Cabinet-level official could authorize other government officials to know details of these special-access programs, according to people familiar with the search, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive details of an ongoing investigation.

Documents about such highly classified operations require special clearances on a need-to-know basis, not just top-secret clearance. Some special-access programs can have as few as a couple dozen government personnel authorized to know of an operation’s existence. Records that deal with such programs are kept under lock and key, almost always in a secure compartmented information facility, with a designated control officer to keep careful tabs on their location.

But such documents were stored at Mar-a-Lago, with uncertain security, more than 18 months after Trump left the White House.

After months of trying, according to government court filings, the FBI has recovered more than 300 classified documents from Mar-a-Lago this year: 184 in a set of 15 boxes sent to the National Archives and Records Administration in January, 38 more handed over by a Trump lawyer to investigators in June, and more than 100 additional documents unearthed in a court-approved search on Aug. 8.

It was in this last batch of government secrets, the people familiar with the matter said, that the information about a foreign government’s nuclear-defense readiness was found. These people did not identify the foreign government in question, say where at Mar-a-Lago the document was found or offer additional details about one of the Justice Department’s most sensitive national security investigations.

Christopher Kise, a lawyer for Trump, decried leaks about the case, which he said “continue with no respect for the process nor any regard for the real truth. This does not serve well the interests of justice.”

“Moreover, the damage to public confidence in the integrity of the system simply cannot be underestimated. The responsible course of action here would be for someone — anyone — in the Government to exercise leadership and control. The Court has provided a sensible path forward which does not include the selective leak of unverifiable and misleading information. There is no reason to deviate from that path if the goal is, as it should be, to find a rational solution to document storage issues which have needlessly spiraled out of control.”

A Trump spokesman did not immediately comment. Spokespeople for the Justice Department and FBI declined to comment.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is conducting a risk assessment, to determine how much potential harm was posed by the removal from government custody of hundreds of classified documents.

The Washington Post previously reported that FBI agents who searched Trump’s home were looking, in part, for any classified documents relating to nuclear weapons. After that story published, Trump compared it on social media to a host of previous government investigations into his conduct. “Nuclear weapons issue is a Hoax, just like Russia, Russia, Russia was a Hoax, two Impeachments were a Hoax, the Mueller investigation was a Hoax, and much more. Same sleazy people involved,” he wrote, going on to suggest that FBI agents might have planted evidence against him.

A grand jury subpoena issued May 11 demanded the return of “all documents or writings in the custody or control of Donald J. Trump and/or the Office of Donald J. Trump bearing classification markings,” including “Top Secret,” and the lesser categories of “Secret” and “Confidential.”

The subpoena, issued to Trump’s custodian of records, then listed more than two dozen sub-classifications of documents, including “S/FRD,” an acronym for “Formerly Restricted Data,” which is reserved for information that relates primarily to the military use of nuclear weapons. Despite the “formerly” in the title, the term does not mean the information is no longer classified.

One person familiar with the Mar-a-Lago search said the goal of the comprehensive list was to ensure recovery of all classified records on the property, and not just those that investigators had reason to believe might be there.

Investigators grew alarmed, according to one person familiar with the search, as they began to review documents retrieved from the club’s storage closet, Trump’s residence and his office in August. The team soon came upon records that are extremely restricted, so much so that even some of the senior-most national security officials in the Biden administration weren’t authorized to review them. One government filing alluded to this information when it noted that counterintelligence FBI agents and prosecutors investigating the Mar-a-Lago documents were not authorized at first to review some of the material seized.

Among the 100-plus classified documents taken in August, some were marked “HCS,” a category of highly classified government information that refers to “HUMINT Control Systems,” which are systems used to protect intelligence gathered from secret human sources, according to a court filing. A partially unsealed affidavit said documents found in the boxes that were sent to the National Archives in January related to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. There was also material that was never meant to be shared with foreign nations.

The investigation into possible mishandling of classified information, as well as possible hiding, tampering or destruction of government records, grew even more complex Monday when a federal judge in Florida granted Trump’s request to appoint a special master to review the material seized in the Aug. 8 search and weed out documents that may be covered by executive privilege — a legal standard that, as applied to former presidents, is poorly defined.

U.S. District Court Judge Aileen M. Cannon ruled the special master also will sift through all of the nearly 13,000 documents and items the FBI took to identify any that might be protected by attorney-client privilege, even though Justice Department lawyers have said a “filter” team has already completed that task.

Cannon’s ruling could slow down and complicate the government’s criminal probe, particularly if the Justice Department decides to appeal over the unsettled and tricky questions of what executive privilege a former president may have. The judge ruled that investigators cannot “use” the seized material in their investigation until the special master concludes his or her examination.

A special master has yet to be appointed; Cannon has asked Trump and the Justice Department to agree on a list of qualified candidates by Friday. Legal experts noted that the Justice Department can still interview witnesses, use other evidence and present information to a grand jury while the special master examines the seized material.

In her order, Cannon said the appointment of a special master was necessary “to ensure at least the appearance of fairness and integrity under the extraordinary circumstances presented.”

She also reasoned that a special master could mitigate potential harm to Trump “by way of improper disclosure of sensitive information to the public,” suggesting that knowledge or details of the case were harmful to the former president, and could be lessened by inserting a special master into the document-review process.

Kise, the Trump lawyer, cited that part of the judge’s reasoning Tuesday night, saying “the damage to public confidence in the integrity of the system simply cannot be underestimated.” He said the special master appointment by the court provides “a sensible path forward which does not include the selective leak of unverifiable and misleading information. There is no reason to deviate from that path if the goal is, as it should be, to find a rational solution to document storage issues which have needlessly spiraled out of control.”

Cannon wrote that Trump’s position as a former president means “the stigma associated with the subject seizure is in a league of its own,” and that a "future indictment, based to any degree on property that ought to be returned, would result in reputational harm of a decidedly different order of magnitude.”

While the FBI search has drawn strong condemnation from Trump and his Republican allies, who accuse the Justice Department of acting with political malice against a past president who may seek the office again in 2024, some Republicans have said the action might have been necessary.

In an interview that aired Friday, former Trump attorney general William P. Barr said there is no reason classified documents should have been at Mar-a-Lago after Trump was out of office.

“People say this was unprecedented,” Barr told Fox News. “But it’s also unprecedented for a president to take all this classified information and put them in a country club, okay?”


Sooner or later, you get to somebody who isn’t a fanatic and isn’t willing to go down for others…

The arrest of Kellye SoRelle, the Texas attorney associated with the Oath Keepers on Thursday, on conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and other “offenses” potentially marks a new stage of the prosecution of the perpetrators of the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.

SoRelle describes herself as the “general counsel” for the Oath Keepers. The far-right militia’s founder Stewart Rhodes and eight other members face charges of seditious conspiracy.

But, SoRelle says she served as interim leader of the Oath Keepers for two weeks following Rhodes’ arrest in January 2022.

To date, the conspiracy charges against Oath Keepers members — including seditious conspiracy against Rhodes and other leaders, and lesser conspiracy charges against a larger group of members — allege a pattern of coordination limited within the organization. But the recent arrest of SoRelle, someone with extensive ties to an array of election deniers broadly involved in the effort to overturn the election and on the ground at the Capitol on Jan. 6, potentially opens the door to conspiracy charges against a wider network of operatives.

Since her first appearance in federal court in Austin on Thursday, SoRelle has been tweeting about her case.

“So, the clear question is… [if] I am the patsy,” she tweeted. “That means the entire election challenge front was all a set up for the conservatives, because they are all protected. Good luck y’all. They won’t stop with me.”

In a direct message to Raw Story on Twitter, SoRelle pointed the finger at three high-profile Trump allies: retired Lt. General Flynn, attorney Sidney Powell and retired CEO Patrick Byrne. Powell filed multiple lawsuits seeking to overturn the election, while Flynn rallied Trump supporters at protests and media appearances, and Byrne covered travel and lodging costs for a wide array of volunteer researchers and analysts seeking to reverse the election.

“Only thing I have to say, I hope they get the real perpetrators — Flynn, Byrne, Powell etc., those behind the Big Lie that set up the conservatives,” SoRelle told Raw Story.

Byrne responded by text with one word: “Silly.” Joe Flynn, the brother of Michael Flynn, was more blunt: “F*** off.” Powell could not be reached for comment.

SoRelle previously testified by video before the House Select Committee to Investigate the Attack on the US Capitol. During a brief clip of SoRelle’s testimony that was presented to the public in July, SoRelle implicated political strategist and longtime Trump ally Roger Stone, InfoWars host Alex Jones and “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander.

When an investigator asked her to confirm that Stone, Jones and Alexander were “the leader of these rallies,” SoRelle responded, “Those are the ones that became like the center point for everything.”

A lawyer for Stone responded shortly after the hearing that his client “engaged in only legally protected, First Amendment activities.”

Court documents indicate that SoRelle was actively involved in the Oath Keepers’ tactical planning while also volunteering for legal efforts to overturn the election. Meanwhile, previous reporting shows, SoRelle cultivated ties with other election denier groups, including Latinos for Trump and Veterans for Trump, that were on the ground at or near the Capitol on Jan. 6.

The indictment unveiled against SoRelle on Thursday alleges that she knowingly combined, conspired, confederated and agreed with other persons to corruptly obstruct, influence and impede Congress’ certification of the Electoral College vote. To date, the government has not revealed any other co-conspirators in its conspiracy case against SoRelle.

In a transcript of a Nov. 9, 2020 GoToMeeting conference call that was filed in court earlier this year, SoRelle updated members of the Oath Keepers on her involvement in legal efforts to challenge the election. SoRelle has said elsewhere that she volunteered with Lawyers for Trump, and was sent to Detroit to investigate election irregularities.

“And then you have the Giuliani pals, I guess, previewing the Campaign pod that’s trying to solve the mystery of the ballots,” SoRelle told Oath Keepers members during the conference call, referencing Rudy Giuliani, then-President Trump’s personal lawyer. “So, I’ve been in communication. I obviously work for the [Republican National Committee] version of it, and then I’m in — I like the Q crowd, they’re kind of fun — and then I’ve been meeting with the campaign crowd.”

On Dec. 18, 2020, an open letter from Rhodes and SoRelle was published, calling on Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act.

Calling on Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act and call the National Guard into service, Rhodes and SoRelle warned that if the president failed to act and left office prior to Joe Biden’s inauguration, it would force “We the People to fight a desperate revolution/civil war against an illegitimate usurper and his Chicom puppet regime.”

Without presenting evidence, the document claimed that “through well-orchestrated mass vote fraud, the Communist Chinese and their domestic enemy allies are about to install their illegitimate puppet, Joe Biden.” As federal and state courts dismissed election challenges and state officials refused capitulate to Trump’s demand to reverse the results, Rhodes and SoRelle claimed that “complicit traitors have been put into place in every branch of government (legislative, executive, judicial) at every level (local, state, federal).”

“Know this,” Rhodes and SoRelle concluded in their overture to Trump. “Millions of American military and law enforcement veterans, and many millions of more loyal patriotic American gun owners stand ready to answer your call to arms, and to obey your orders to get this done.”

Rhodes and SoRelle’s call paralleled an effort by retired Lt. General Michael Flynn, lawyer Sidney Powell and former CEO Patrick Byrne, who paid an unexpected visit to Trump in the Oval Office to ask him to deploy the National Guard to seize voting machinery, which also took place on Dec. 18.

As Trump supporters converged in Washington, DC in the days leading up to Congress’ scheduled session to certify the electoral vote, SoRelle and Rhodes appeared to network with a wide array of other figures who were vociferously promoting the view that the election was stolen.

Most famously, perhaps, SoRelle was present during a Jan. 5 meeting between Rhodes and Proud Boys national chairman Enrique Tarrio in a DC hotel parking garage shortly after Tarrio was released by a DC court and ordered to leave the city, with charges pending for burning a BLM flag stolen from a Black church and illegal ammunition. Bianca Gracia, president of Latinos for Trump, and Joshua Macias, cofounder of Veterans for Trump, were also present during the brief meeting.

Video posted by Jonathon Mosely, an attorney who previously represented Oath Keepers defendant Kelly Meggs, shows Gracia and Macias approach Tarrio first, followed by SoRelle and Rhodes. After Gracia and Macias embraced Tarrio, Gracia introduced Tarrio to SoRelle.

“I want you to meet this attorney, Kellye,” Gracia said. “She’s from Texas.” Then, Tarrio and Rhodes shook hands, and exchanged pleasantries.

At the time, Macias was out on bond after being charged with weapons offenses outside the Philadelphia Convention Center, where votes were being tabulated on Nov. 5, 2020. Antonio LaMotta, who was also charged alongside Macias for weapons offenses in Philadelphia following the election, was arrested last month on charges related to the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.

SoRelle, Macias, Gracia and Rhodes were together again that day for a roundtable discussion livestreamed on Facebook from a hotel room by Virginia state Sen. Amanda Chase.

“That same community are the most well-trained, crucible-trained combat veterans that this world has ever seen,” Macias said during the livestream. “And they are the brother, the sister, the uncle… those that would open up and help you buy your shoes, okay. These are veterans out there that are well trained that can… be brought in as a special group and be utilized in any shape or form at [Trump’s] disposal. And we have a million in Vets for Trump just right now, standing at the ready, let alone those within one degree of separation.

“So, here we sit at a precipice of change where we have a community that’s ready to step in, do what is needed,” Macias continued. “The president has all the power and the authority to do so, and he has the backing of We The People….”

Rhodes concurred, echoing a point made in the Dec. 18 open letter that he and SoRelle addressed to Trump.

“In fact, us veterans, until age 65, under federal statute, still are subject to being called up,” Rhodes said. “That goes for seventeen to forty-five if you’re not a veteran…. He can call us up right now and put us to work.”

SoRelle was a featured speaker, alongside Gracia and Macias, at a “Freedom Rally” co-hosted by Latinos for Trump and Virginia Freedom Keepers near the Russell Office Building on Jan. 6.

Later, SoRelle and Rhodes walked over to the east side of the Capitol, where dozens of Oath Keepers members breached the building in stack formations. In an interview last September with David Sumrall, an election denier who campaigns to support Jan. 6 defendants, SoRelle insisted she was not aware of any prior planning to breach the Capitol.

“Well, Stewart had guys that were protecting the different speakers at different events, namely Ali Alexander, who was supposed to have one literally on the Capitol grounds,” SoRelle told Sumrall. “Then, everybody’s like, ‘Well, we don’t know where everybody’s at. This is chaos. Like, what the heck?’ So, that’s why we ended up at the Capitol. We went down there just to see if he could locate his people, you know. And then next thing you take it to crazy la-la land, as in everybody’s the mastermind, and whatever.”

SoRelle has previously cast suspicion on Byrne, Flynn’s ally. In a rambling affidavit shared on Twitter last November, SoRelle claimed that a former Trump administration Department employee named Jason Funes showed her a video of a man that claimed he flew to the Capitol with Byrne and Jason Sullivan, the provocateur who filmed Ashli Babbit’s shooting. SoRelle wrote that the man, a former Proud Boy named Thad Cisneros, “was recorded stating that he flew to Washington, DC with Patrick Byrne and the Sullivan brothers, and that Patrick Byrne paid for the provocateurs to be at the Capitol.”

Funes and Cisneros both told Raw Story in June that SoRelle’s account of Cisneros’ statement on the video was inaccurate.

Byrne also disputed SoRelle’s account, but volunteered that it was possible that he flew Gracia and Tarrio from Texas to Washington, DC in December 2020.

Byrne shared a Signal thread for “TAP leadership” with Raw Story in June. The thread included personnel associated with The America Project, an election denier group in Florida that he founded with the Flynn brothers.

“Kellye is crazy and likes to make s*** up,” Joe Flynn wrote.

Gracia distanced herself from Cisneros, saying he was rumored to be an “informant.”

“At this point, everyone is either an informant or domestic terrorist,” she said.


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