Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe declassified and released two documents today which reveal that the Obama Administration possessed information in the summer of 2016 suggesting the alleged relationship between Russian election interference and members of the Trump Campaign was a plan devised by a foreign policy advisor to Hillary Clinton.
The first document contains handwritten notes of CIA Director John Brennan taken during a White House briefing. Notations indicate that persons who spoke during the briefing were “POTUS”, “JC” (presumably FBI Dir. Jim Comey), “Denis” (presumably White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonogh), and “Susan” (presumably National Security Advisor Susan Rice).
The comments reflecting the existence of a Clinton “plan” are attributed to someone whose name is redacted in the margin on the left side of the notes. That is likely a CIA or NSA official who is reporting the intelligence information.
Brennan’s notes regarding that person’s comments read:
We’re gaining 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.
POTUS — Any evidence of collaboration between Trump campaign and Russia?
The comments of JC, Denis, and Susan reflected in the notes are all redacted.
A second document released by DNI Ratcliffe is a Referral from the CIA to the FBI with regard to this information. The Memorandum was directed to “Director” and to Peter Strzok, identified as “Deputy Assistant Director for Operations Branch 1, Counterintelligence Division.”
The Memorandum is heavily redacted, but the following passage is disclosed:
“Per FBI verbal request, CIA provides the below examples of information the CROSSFIRE HURRICANE fusion cell has gleaned to date.”
“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 form her use of a private email server.”
Last week DNI Ratcliffe disclosed the existence of these two documents, and their contents, to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Democrats and media began immediately trying to kill the story by claiming that the information DNI Ratcliffe was passing on was actually Russian “disinformation” that was part of the campaign by the Russians in the summer of 2016 to discredit Clinton as a candidate in order to benefit Pres. Trump in the contest against her.
Nick Merrill, a spokesman for Hillary Clinton, called the information released by Ratcliffe in his letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee “baseless b*llsh*t”.
In response to the claim that the Trump Administration was publishing Russian “disinformation”, DNI Ratcliffe issued a letter stating without qualification that this information was not Russian “disinformation,” and he would be briefing Congress in more detail about the information.
The documents released today show exactly why Ratcliffe’s clarification is correct, and why the effort to discredit the release of information reflects fear by President Trump’s opponents about this development.
First, the lack of a date on Brennan’s notes creates the possibility that this information came to the Obama Administration in the early stages of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation of the allegations of a link between Russian election interference and the Trump campaign. This is certainly NOT disinformation because it would not have received the high-level disclosure by the Intelligence Community to POTUS, Comey, Brennan, and Rice that it did. If the IC believed this was disinformation, it would not have gone to that trouble but would have used the disinformation as part of its counterintelligence operation then underway to combat against the ongoing Russian efforts to interfere in the election.
Second, POTUS asks if the same intelligence collection effort — presumably against Russian communications — had uncovered any evidence of collaboration between the Trump campaign and Russia. The fact that he would ask this question certainly suggests the very strong inference that this briefing took place after the Crossfire Hurricane investigation was underway to establish whether such collaboration was taking place. Evidence of such collaboration would call into doubt the accuracy of the interception alleging a “plan” by the Clinton campaign.
It is noteworthy that the next speaker after POTUS posed that question is Jim Comey. Presumably, Comey’s comments would have been to update the attendees on what the Crossfire Hurricane investigation had revealed to that point — which was nothing.
Finally, if the report of a Clinton “plan” was Russian “disinformation,” it would not have been referred by the CIA to the FBI as it was in September 2016.
Further, the Memorandum includes a motivation for the “plan” of the Clinton campaign which is not referenced in Brennan’s handwritten notes — that it was intended to distract attention away from the controversy over her use of a private email server while serving as Secretary of State.
The inescapable consequence of these facts are that the senior most intelligence and law enforcement officials — while supposedly “chasing” evidence of a collaborative relationship between Russian intelligence services and members of the Trump campaign to gain an electoral advantage over Clinton, were at the same time ignoring information gleaned from intelligence operations that the “chatter” about such a relationship was actually the product of a “disinformation” campaign spawned and carried out by the Clinton campaign to gain an electoral advantage.
More sinisterly, a few senior intelligence and law enforcement officials helped create such an investigation and imbued it with a sense of paramount urgency FOR THE PURPOSE of lending credence to, and providing cover for the ongoing effort of the Clinton campaign to vilify Donald Trump as a Russian stooge.
That is an outlandish charge, but one that is getting harder and harder to dismiss as fantastical.
One big question remains, and I’ll address this in another story later — what is the CIA referring to in the Memorandum when it references a “Crossfire Hurricane fusion cell“?
“Crossfire Hurricane” was the FBI’s counterintelligence “umbrella” investigation of all things related to the possible connection between Russian election interference and the Trump campaign.
The IG report detailing the issues with the “Four FISAs” sought and obtained by the FBI on Carter Page does not refer a single time to anything called a “fusion cell” under the “Crossfire Hurricane” moniker.
Was there a second investigatory unit involving the CIA and using the same counterintelligence designation as the FBI investigation? Was this offshore using friendly foreign intelligence agencies?
The disclosure of this fact in the unredacted text of the Memorandum may explain the EXTRAORDINARY difficulty that has been encountered in getting information out of the CIA.
The disclosure of this fact may confirm the existence of open warfare between the Administration and the CIA.
More to come.