Former President Barack Obama and his director of national intelligence, James Clapper, were both briefed in 2016 on reports that then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton planned to vilify Donald Trump by claiming he was colluding with Russia to win the election, according to the final report from Special Counsel John Durham’s investigation into the original Trump-Russia probe.
This week, Durham released a lengthy report detailing the findings of his years-long investigation into the origins of the FBI’s probe, known as “Crossfire Hurricane,” which looked into whether former President Donald Trump and his campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election.
Durham found that there was never any information to justify opening the FBI’s original investigation and that the bureau and the Department of Justice “failed to uphold their mission of strict fidelity to the law.”
The conclusions in the report undermine opponents of Trump who have claimed for years that he colluded with Russia, although some Democrats in Congress and critics in the media have dismissed or downplayed the findings.
KEY PLAYERS IN ORIGINS OF TRUMP-RUSSIA PROBE
As part of its probe, the special counsel’s office considered the government’s handling of intelligence that it received during the summer of 2016 concerning alleged efforts by Clinton to link Trump to Russian interference in the election — information described in the report as the “Clinton Plan intelligence.”
In a 2020 letter to lawmakers cited in Durham’s report, then-Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe described the purported “approval by Hillary Clinton on July 26, 2016 of a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisers to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by the Russian security services.” Ratcliffe added that Clinton’s alleged plot would hurt Trump by “tying him to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and the Russians’ hacking of the Democratic National Committee,” thereby distracting the public from the investigation into her use of a private email server.
Ratcliffe’s letter and Durham’s report both note that the information came from insight that “U.S. intelligence agencies obtained into Russian intelligence analysis,” adding that the intelligence community can’t for sure know the full accuracy of the allegation.
Nonetheless, the intelligence on Clinton’s plan was shared with Obama, Clapper and other top national security officials right after U.S. officials became aware of it in 2016, according to the report, which outlined what followed.
On Aug. 3, 2016, within days of receiving the Clinton plan in late July, then-CIA Director John Brennan met with Obama, Joe Biden (who was vice president at the time) and other senior officials to discuss Russian efforts to interfere in the election.
DURHAM FINDS DOJ, FBI ‘FAILED TO UPHOLD’ MISSION OF ‘STRICT FIDELITY TO THE LAW’ IN TRUMP-RUSSIA PROBE
According to Brennan’s handwritten notes and his recollections from the meeting, he briefed those present on the Clinton plan. His declassified handwritten notes, the report says, “reflect that he briefed the meeting’s participants regarding the ‘alleged approval by Hillary Clinton on 26 July of a proposal from one of her [campaign] advisers to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a
scandal claiming interference by the Russian security services.'”
FBI personnel beyond then-Director James Comey, who was present at Brennan’s briefing, became increasingly aware of the intelligence at some point later that month.
Durham’s report goes on to say that Clapper, who had been present at previous high-level discussions about Russian election meddling, along with other high-ranking officials “received an intelligence product on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election that included the Clinton Plan intelligence.” However, Durham “did not identify any further actions that the CIA or FBI took in response to this intelligence product as it related to the Clinton Plan intelligence.”
Indeed, the report describes how the special counsel’s probe found no evidence of the FBI considering whether and how Clinton’s alleged plot might impact the Crossfire Hurricane investigation into potential Trump-Russia collusion.
“No FBI personnel who were interviewed by the [special counsel’s] office recalled Crossfire Hurricane personnel taking any action to vet the Clinton Plan intelligence,” the report states. “This stands in sharp contrast to its substantial reliance on the uncorroborated Steele Reports, which at least some FBI personnel appeared to know was likely being funded or promoted by the Clinton campaign.”
DURHAM REPORT CONTRADICTS ‘GUARANTEE’ FROM MAXINE WATERS THAT TRUMP COLLUDED WITH RUSSIA
Marc Elias, general counsel for Clinton’s 2016 campaign, testified both during a House Intelligence Committee investigation in 2017 and more recently during Durham’s ongoing probe that he hired the opposition research firm Fusion GPS to dig up dirt on then-candidate Trump.
Fusion GPS went on to commission former MI6 agent Christopher Steele to create the infamous “Steele dossier,” which purported to show collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin. It contained several salacious and since-debunked claims about Trump and his alleged ties to Russia.
The FBI used the now-discredited dossier to obtain a warrant to surveil former Trump 2016 campaign aide Carter Page. The Department of Justice later admitted that the warrant application was full of misinformation and that the surveillance warrant should’ve never been approved.
“Unlike the FBI’s opening of a full investigation of unknown members of the Trump campaign based on raw, uncorroborated information, in this separate matter involving a purported Clinton campaign plan, the FBI never opened any type of inquiry, issued any taskings, employed any analytical personnel, or produced any analytical products in connection with the information,” Durham’s report states. “This lack of action was despite the fact that the significance of the Clinton plan intelligence was such as to have prompted the director of the CIA to brief the president, vice president, attorney general, director of the FBI, and other senior government officials about its content within days of its receipt. It was also of enough importance for the CIA to send a formal written referral memorandum to Director Corney and the deputy assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division, Peter Strzok, for their consideration and action.”
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The report notes that Clapper told Durham’s investigators, as well as lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee, that he saw no evidence of Trump’s team colluding with Russia and knew of no direct evidence that would meet the legal standard of conspiracy or collusion on Trump’s part.
Clapper, an outspoken Trump critic and CNN analyst who has said that Russian meddling likely influenced the 2016 election, has also said in publicly aired interviews that he never saw evidence of collusion between Trump and Russia.
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