TEL AVIV — A key finding in the Republican House Intelligence Committee’s 250-page report on alleged Russian collusion raises immediate questions about the claim from Obama-era intelligence agencies that Moscow interfered in the U.S. election to ensure Donald Trump’s victory.
The extensive report, released on Friday, concluded a yearlong investigation finding no evidence that Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign colluded with Russia.
One section of the report finds that the Intelligence Community’s (IC) assessment of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strategic intentions for allegedly interfering in the U.S. election “did not employ proper analytic tradecraft” and contained “significant intelligence tradecraft failings that undermine confidence” in the judgments, including the failure to “be independent of political considerations.”
The report was referring to the conclusion of a January 6, 2017 U.S. IC report alleging the Russian government sought to aid Donald Trump’s “election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.”
The NSA assessed that conclusion with a classification of “moderate confidence,” while the FBI and CIA gave it a “high confidence” rating.
The IC report also claimed that “Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-Elect Trump.”
The House GOP report, however, revealed its investigation “identified significant intelligence tradecraft failings” that undermine confidence in Putin’s alleged goal of aiding Trump in the presidential election.
According to the GOP probe, the assessment of Putin’s alleged intentions of aiding Trump did not meet the IC guidelines on the following matters:
- “Properly describe quality and credibility of underlying sources.”
- “Properly express and explain uncertainties associated with major analytic judgments.”
- “Incorporate analysis of alternatives … [particularly] when major judgments must contend with significant uncertainties or … high impact results.”
- Base confidence assessments on “the quantity and quality of source material.”
- “Be informed by all relevant information available.”
- “Be independent of political considerations.”
While the entire claim that Russia favored Trump has been called into question, former FBI Director James Comey, whose agency supported that claim, testified last year that the basis for the intelligence community’s assessment that Putin allegedly wanted Trump in office was not because the billionaire was, as Sen. Al Franken claimed without citing any evidence, “ensnared in” Russia’s “web of patronage.”
Instead, the FBI chief provided two primary reasons for the FBI’s now questionable claim that Russia allegedly favored Trump over Clinton. One reason, according to Comey, was that Putin “hated” Clinton and would have favored any Republican opponent. The second reason, Comey explained, was that Putin made an assessment that it would be easier to make a deal with a businessman than someone from the political class.
In an exchange during a hearing with Comey, Franken stated that “the FBI, CIA and the NSA all concluded that Russia did in fact interfere in the 2016 election in order to, quote, help President-Elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton. And the agencies concluded that the Russians had a clear preference for President Trump.”
Franken asked, “What is your assessment of why the Russian government had a clear preference for President Trump?”
The intelligence communities’ assessment had a couple of parts with respect to that. One is he wasn’t Hillary Clinton, who Putin hated and wanted to harm in any possible way, and so he was her opponent, so necessarily they supported him.
And then also this second notion that the intelligence community assessed that Putin believed he would be more able to make deals, reach agreements with someone with a business background than with someone who’d grown up in more of a government environment.
Not satisfied with Comey’s response, Franken further probed whether the intelligence community believed Russia wanted Trump in office because of Trump’s business interests, claiming that Trump “had already been ensnared in their web of patronage.”
OK, well, I’m curious about just how closely Russia followed the Kremlin playbook when it meld (ph) in our democracy, specifically whether the Russians had a preference for President Trump because he had already been ensnared in their web of patronage — web of patronage is a quote from the report. Is it possible that in the Russian’s views — view Trump’s business interests would make him more amenable to cooperating with them, quote, more disposed to deal with Russia as the IC report says?
Comey replied, “That was not the basis for the IC’s assessment.”
Now, the GOP House report finding of “significant intelligence tradecraft failings” calls the IC claim that Putin wanted Trump to win into question entirely.
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.
Written with research by Joshua Klein.