Declassified CIA Docs Show Brennan Briefed Obama on Alleged Clinton Plan for 'Stirring Up' Trump-Russia Scandal
Do you want to know more about the origins of the Russia collusion investigation?
by Causes | 10.7.20
What’s the story?
- Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe on Tuesday declassified documents that revealed former CIA Director John Brennan briefed President Barack Obama in 2016 on Russian intelligence the CIA gathered regarding an alleged plan candidate Hillary Clinton agreed to which sought to instigate a scandal connecting candidate Donald Trump to Russia "as a means of distracting the public from her use of a public email server".
- The two documents include Brennan's handwritten notes and a CIA memo sent to the FBI as a referral for a potential investigation. Both contain significant redactions of content that relates either to the sources and methods of intelligence collection or other information that hasn't been declassified.
- The information made public on Tuesday was provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, when Ratcliffe warned in a letter that, “The [intelligence community] does not know the accuracy of this allegation may reflect exaggeration or fabrication.” After releasing the newly declassified documents, Ratcliffe told Fox News in a statement that, “To be clear, this is not Russian disinformation and has not been assessed as such by the Intelligence Community. I’ll be briefing Congress on the sensitive sources and methods by which it was obtained in the coming days.”
- One of the declassified documents contains Brennan’s handwritten notes that were reportedly compiled by the CIA director after he briefed Obama on the matter in late July 2016. The key declassified portion of the document reads:
“We’re getting additional insight into Russian activities from [REDACTED]... Cite alleged approval by Hillary Clinton on 28 July of a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisors to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by the Russian security service.”
- Other portions of Brennan’s notes are redacted, including bullet points next to which several names and initials were scrawled in the margins. The notations include “POTUS” (President of the United States), “JC” (possibly former FBI Director James Comey or Director of National Intelligence James Clapper), “Denis” (possibly Obama Chief of Staff Denis McDonough), and “Susan” (possibly Obama National Security Advisor Susan Rice). The only other unredacted bullet point from Brennan’s memo reads, “Any evidence of collaboration between Trump campaign + Russia”.
- The second declassified document is a CIA memo from September 2016 addressed to the director of the FBI, which at the time was James Comey, and to FBI Agent Peter Strzok that had “Crossfire Hurricane” in the partially redacted subject line. Crossfire Hurricane was the codename for the FBI’s counterintelligence probe into allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, which Strzok led until it was taken over by Special Counsel Robert Mueller following Comey’s firing.
- The CIA memo contained an investigatory lead that was gleaned by the Crossfire Hurricane fusion cell (e.g. the interagency task force) and verbally requested by the FBI. One of the less-redacted portions of the memo reads:
“[REDACTED] An exchange [REDACTED] discussing US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s approval of a plan concerning US presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian hackers hampering US elections as a means of distracting the public from her use of a private email server. [REDACTED] According to open sources, Guccifer 2.0 is an individual or group of hackers whom US officials believe is tied to Russian intelligence services. Also per open sources, Guccifer 2.0 claimed credit for hacking the Democratic National Committee (DNC) this year.”
- Additionally, the CIA memo addressed to Comey and Strzok notes that information contained within “may not be used in any legal proceeding ― including FISA applications ― without prior approval”.
- The FBI has been rebuked by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) for failing to disclose exculpatory information in Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) applications. Of particular concern has been the application to surveil Trump campaign aide Carter Page, which Comey, former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, and former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein have each said they wouldn’t have signed off on had they been aware of the application’s reliance on the flawed Steele dossier and its omission of exculpatory information.
- In Comey’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, he was questioned about the information contained in Ratcliffe’s letter that was underpinned by these newly declassified documents. Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) asked if he remembered receiving an investigatory lead involving the alleged Clinton plan to vilify Trump, and Comey testified, “That doesn’t ring any bells with me,” and “doesn’t sound familiar.”
- The origins and operations of Crossfire Hurricane are the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation by U.S. Attorney John Durham, which recently netted its first conviction after former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith pleaded guilty to making a false statement. It’s unclear if this information will be used in Durham’s investigation.
- In an interview on CNN, Brennan was asked about the memos and said Ratcliffe's declassification is "appalling" and engaging in "selective declassification clearly designed to advance the political interests of Donald Trump and Republicans" before adding:
"These were my notes from the 2016 period when I briefed President Obama and the rest of the National Security Council team about what the Russians were up to, and I was giving examples of the type of access that the U.S. intelligence community had to Russia, Russian information, and what the Russians were talking about and alleging.
Now, if, in fact, what the Russians were alleging, that Hillary was trying to highlight the reported connections between Trump and the Russians, if in fact that was accurate, and that's a big if, there is nothing at all illegal about that. And so John Ratcliffe and others are trying to portray this as potentially unlawful activity that deserved follow up investigation by the FBI. No, that was a campaign activity... And I was blind to whether it referred to one candidate or the other. I was blind to whether it referred to one party or another."
- President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday night that, "I have fully authorized the total Declassification of any & all documents pertaining to the single greatest political CRIME in American History, the Russia Hoax. Likewise, the Hillary Clinton Email Scandal. No redactions!" He added that, "All Russia Hoax Scandal information was Declassified by me long ago. Unfortunately for our Country, people have acted very slowly, especially since it is perhaps the biggest political crime in the history of our Country. Act!!!"
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Obama White House via Flickr / Public Domain)
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