NEW YORK — In his recently released book, James Clapper, director of National Intelligence under the Obama administration, describes numerous shifts in Russia’s alleged attitude toward Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.
At first, Clapper writes that Russia simply opposed Hillary Clinton and didn’t favor one Republican presidential candidate. After Trump seemed initially poised to possibly win, Clapper relates an alleged Russian propaganda effort to aid Trump’s victory in order to defeat Clinton. Toward the final stretch of the presidential campaign, with Trump’s poll numbers falling, Clapper wrote that Russia shifted its position away from aiding Trump and focused mainly on opposing Hillary, even allegedly providing Green Party candidate Jill Stein with more favorable coverage.
The picture painted by Clapper in his book stands in stark contrast to a central conclusion in the January 6, 2017 U.S. Intelligence Community 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 report also claimed without providing many details that “(Russian President Vladimir) Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-Elect Trump.”
The official report was released by Clapper’s office and authored by the CIA under John Brennan, the FBI under James Comey and the NSA under Mike Rogers.
The NSA assessed the conclusion that Putin favored Trump and worked to get him elected only with a classification of “moderate confidence,” while the FBI and CIA gave it a “high confidence” rating.
Now Clapper’s book tells a different story. In the fall of 2015, before Trump became the nominee, Clapper writes that Putin’s attitude “was much like that of a University of Michigan football fan on a weekend the Wolverines don’t have a game — cheering for whoever was playing Ohio State. Up until December 2015, Putin and Russia simply pulled for whoever was bashing Hillary Clinton.” The description is a far cry from the wild and baseless conspiracy theories that Trump was somehow working with Russia or that Russia favored Trump because they held blackmail material over him.
By December, Clapper says that Russia for a period “developed a clear favorite” in Trump. He claimed that while Russia and the Trump campaign “seemed to be quite in sync” in terms of some of their alleged views, that “didn’t necessarily mean they were colluding — coordinating their efforts behind closed doors.”
He continues: “They may simply have had a lot in common: a strong dislike for both the Washington political establishment and Hillary Clinton personally; a proclivity for social media, particularly Twitter, which meant they’d end up sharing each other’s ideas on the internet; and a genuine delight in wallowing in conspiracy theories.”
Clapper cited several Trump statements and said that Russia noted Trump was resonating with the base.
It became clear, according to Clapper’s characterizations, that Russia was allegedly promoting Trump, including with purported Internet trolls, because they thought the billionaire could defeat Clinton.
That changed, Clapper wrote, around the time the infamous Access Hollywood tape came out on October 7, 2016, with polls claiming Trump, already behind, started to tank after the release of the tape.
After that, Clapper writes that Russia shifted its alleged efforts to defeating Clinton instead of purportedly promoting Trump and that direction did not change throughout the election. He even writes that Russia allegedly gave Jill Stein more favorable coverage than Trump during that time.
After mid-October, the Russians no longer tried to compare Mr. Trump positively with Secretary Clinton. Instead, they complained that Americans had never been given a decent choice. In the final weeks before Election Day, they continued promoting conspiracies about Clinton corruption and her connections with Islamic extremism.
On Election Day, November 8, no one really believed Mr. Trump had a chance — including the Russians, who had never pivoted back to promoting him, and who, it could be argued, gave Green Party candidate Jill Stein more favorable coverage.
On election night, they’d planned a multifaceted campaign to discredit Clinton’s win with the Twitter hashtag #DemocracyRIP.
None of those details of Russia’s alleged wavering on working for a Trump victory, however, made it into the IC report released by Clapper’s office alleging the Russians clearly worked to elect Trump, whom they favored.
The report did allow that “Moscow’s approach evolved over the course of the campaign based on Russia’s understanding of the electoral prospects of the two main candidates.”
“When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign began to focus more on undermining her future presidency,” the report added.
The assessment that Russia clearly favored Trump was extensively questioned by the Republican House Intelligence Committee’s 250-page report on alleged Russian collusion released in April that concluded a yearlong investigation finding no evidence that Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russia.
One section of the report finds that the IC assessment of Putin’s strategic intentions for allegedly interfering in the U.S. election to aid Trump “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.”
According to the GOP probe, the assessment of Putin’s alleged campaign to aid 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.”
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.