The federal custodian of presidential transition records plotted against President Trump by secretly sharing all his files with the FBI, says a Senate Republican report titled “Don’t Brief the Trump Team.”
The General Services Administration ignored a written agreement with the winning Trump campaign to destroy the documents as the private property of Trump for America Inc., not official government papers, according to the 285-page report.
“This conduct undermines the GSA’s role as a neutral provider of services to presidential transition teams,” the report concludes. “The GSA did not honor this promise or protect the legal rights of the Trump transition team.”
During the FBI’s probe into alleged Trump-Russian election collusion, the GSA knew that a subpoena was required to meet FBI demands but ignored its own guidelines and avoided any legal process.
The GSA was, in fact, an activist. It proactively contacted the FBI after the resignation of retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as national security adviser in February 2017 and asked whether the bureau wanted the files. At that point, it decided to retain all transition materials and deliberately kept the White House in the dark.
“This is yet another example of the disparate treatment the Trump campaign and administration received from the federal bureaucracy,” the report states. It offers as an example the FBI’s decision during the campaign to disguise its election interference probe as a routine threat assessment brief for candidate Trump.
The report was written by the Republican staff of Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa.
The senators charge that the GSA violated America’s cherished peaceful transfer of power and government cooperation with a transition office by going behind the back of a president who views Washington’s power centers as “the swamp.”
“Future presidential transition teams must have confidence that their use of government resources and facilities for internal communications and deliberations — including key decisions such as nominations, staffing, and significant policy changes — will not expose them to exploitation by third parties, including political opponents,” the Senate report states.
Mr. Grassley and Mr. Johnson have teamed up in other probes, such as how the FBI investigated the Trump campaign.
Mr. Johnson this month released the FBI’s complete set of interviews, called Form 302s, for former Justice Department Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr. The reports showed that Hillary Clinton’s opposition research firm Fusion GPS was feeding false anti-Trump claims even after the election in a bid to take down the new president.
The two senators released on Sept. 23 a report on the foreign money paid to Hunter Biden, son of Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden, during his vice presidency and afterward.
The GSA is the real estate manager of the federal government and provides basic operating equipment such as computer storage capability.
The Senate report says the GSA didn’t receive a formal preservation request until June 2017, the month after Robert Mueller was named special counsel to investigate any Trump-Russia collusion.
The Trump campaign learned about the retention, but the GSA refused to provide copies. By August, Mr. Mueller completed his acquisition by obtaining transition team records for then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo and presidential advisers Keith Kellogg and Jared Kushner.
The Mueller request came from FBI counsel Kevin Clinesmith. Clinesmith pleaded guilty earlier this year to altering a CIA email to make it look like Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page never worked as an official agency source when in fact he did.
The GSA seemed in January 2017 to be on its way of adhering to the Trump agreement by erasing data from information technology hardware and software returned by the transition office. GSA associate counsel Seth Greenfield stopped the process after Flynn’s firing and reached out to the inspector general, who “got the ball rolling for GSA’s preservation of records,” Mr. Greenfield said in an internal email.
“Contrary to the express terms of its memorandum of understanding with Trump for America, the GSA began preserving transition team records on February 15, 2017,” the Senate report states.
The following month, then-FBI General Counsel James Baker sent an email requesting only records related to Flynn.
The GSA continued to save transition documents despite no one asking it to.
In April 2017, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence asked for all papers from the Trump team. The FBI followed with its request.
With the Senate looking at the records, the GSA refused to let Trump for America review its own files, according to a series of emails that the committees obtained.
At one point, a GSA official told the Trump for America counsel that 80% of all data had been wiped when it had not.
In the end, Mr. Mueller said he failed to establish that there was a 2016 election conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, which hacked into Democratic Party computers.
He prosecuted Trump associates for lobbying violations, tax evasion and lying to investigators.
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