On Tuesday, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe briefed Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on documents revealing an alleged Hillary Clinton plot to launch a scandal campaign attempting to tie then-candidate Donald Trump to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russians’ hacking of the Democratic National Committee. The Intelligence Community had discovered a Russian analysis about the plot and even briefed President Barack Obama about it. CIA Director John Brennan forwarded a referral to FBI Director James Comey and a certain deputy assistant director of counterintelligence named Peter Strzok.
Graham said the newly uncovered documents may suggest a double standard at the FBI.
“This latest information provided by DNI Ratcliffe shows there may have been a double standard by the FBI regarding allegations against the Clinton campaign and Russia,” Graham said in a statement. “Whether these allegations are accurate is not the question. The question is did the FBI investigate the allegations against Clinton like they did Trump? If not, why not? If so, what was the scope of the investigation? If none, why was that?”
Graham said he would question Comey about this report at the hearing on Wednesday.
Ratcliffe revealed the Russian intelligence on the alleged Clinton plot in a letter to Graham and other senators.
“In late July 2016, U.S. intelligence agencies obtained insight into Russian intelligence analysis alleging that U.S. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had approved a campaign plan to stir up a scandal against U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump by tying him to Putin and the Russians’ hacking of the Democratic National Committee,” the DNI wrote. “The IC does not know the accuracy of this allegation or the extent to which the Russian intelligence analysis may reflect exaggeration or fabrication.”
According to Ratcliffe, Brennan’s handwritten notes recall that the CIA director “briefed President Obama and other senior national security officials on the intelligence, including the ‘alleged approval by Hillary Clinton on July 26, 2016 of a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisors to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by Russian security services.'”
On September 7, 2016, intelligence officials forwarded an investigative referral to Comey and Strzok — later notorious for his anti-Trump bias as revealed in texts to his then-lover, Lisa Page — regarding “U.S. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s approval of a plan concerning U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian hackers hampering U.S. elections as a means of distracting the public from her use of a private mail server.”
It is no secret that Clinton painted Trump as compromised and in bed with Russia. Yet it does seem rather noteworthy that Russian intelligence claimed she had cooked up a Trump-Russia scandal back in July.
As PJ Media reported in 2017, the Clinton campaign — through the intermediator law firm Perkins Coie — had hired Fusion GPS to conduct research into Trump back in April 2016. When Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya infamously met with Trump campaign officials in June 2016, she was also working with Fusion GPS and had met with Glenn Simpson before and after the Trump Tower meeting.
It is possible that the Trump Tower meeting was a Clinton set-up, a honeypot operation designed to bolster Clinton’s claim that Trump was in bed with Russia. If this was the case, it seems likely that news of this operation could have reached Russian intelligence operatives, and their reports ended up in Brennan’s hands.
Alternately, the Russian documents could have been a false flag, meant to smear Clinton or — more likely — to further divide Americans. As Graham noted, the Russian intelligence has not been confirmed, and it seems unlikely Clinton herself would ever confirm it, if it were true.
Update September 29, 2020 8:30 p.m. ET:
On Tuesday night, Politico reported that both Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee rejected the Russian intelligence assessment about Clinton’s alleged approval of a planted Trump-Russia scandal. Members of the committee reportedly concluded that the Russian report had “no factual basis.”
“It’s very disturbing to me that, 35 days before an election, the director of national intelligence would release unverified Russin rumint,” or rumor intelligence, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said.
Nick Merrill, a spokesperson for Clinton, said the allegations were “baseless bullsh*t.”
Ratcliffe responded to these attacks, insisting the report was not Russian disinformation.
“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,” the DNI said.
Graham also defended releasing the document. “I’m not saying whether it’s true or not,” the Republican senator said. “I’m asking Democrats, do you give a damn whether the FBI investigated it, or do you just care only about investigating Trump?”
“They took the whole damn country through hell for two and a half years — and is it far-fetched to believe that the Clinton campaign would do something like this after Christopher Steele”
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.