On Tuesday, Direction of National Intelligence (DNI) John Ratcliffe declassified former CIA Director John Brennan’s handwritten notes purportedly revealing that Brennan briefed President Barack Obama on claims that 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton approved a plan to tie then-candidate Donald Trump to Russia “as a means of distracting the public from her use of a private email server.” The claim traces back to Russian sources and a Clinton spokesperson has vehemently denied the claims, but Ratcliffe has insisted that it is not Russian “disinformation.”
Ratcliffe declassified Brennan’s notes — written after he briefed Obama on the claim — and a CIA memo, which revealed that officials had referred the matter to the FBI for potential investigation, Fox News exclusively reported. The DNI sent the documents to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.
“Today, at the direction of President Trump, I declassified additional documents relevant to ongoing Congressional oversight and investigative activities,” Ratcliffe told Fox News. A source familiar with the documents told Fox that Brennan wrote his notes after briefing Obama.
“We’re getting additional insight into Russian activities from [REDACTED],” Brennan notes read. “CITE [summarizing] alleged approved by Hillary Clinton a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisers to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by the Russian security service.”
Brennan dated the notes “on 28 July,” and wrote “POTUS” in the margin in a section of the notes that remains redacted.
“Any evidence of collaboration between Trump campaign + Russia,” the notes read. The rest of the notes remain redacted, but the margins note “JC,” a potential reference to then-FBI Director James Comey; “Denis,” a potential reference to Obama Chief of Staff Denis McDonough; and “Susan,” a potential reference to National Security Adviser Susan Rice.
Ratcliffe first publicly revealed the Russian intelligence on the alleged Clinton plot in a letter to Graham and other senators last week.
“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, the CIA referred the Russian intelligence to the FBI, specifically to James Comey and Peter Strzok, for investigation.
Both Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee reportedly rejected the Russian intelligence assessment. 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?” Graham asked.
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.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.