TEL AVIV — President Trump has taken to Twitter to share quotes strongly criticizing Obama-era CIA Director John Brennan for undermining faith in the U.S. intelligence community and his alleged role in fueling the anti-Trump dossier that spread unsubstantiated, conspiratorial claims of collusion with Russia.
Below, in no particular order, are three major roles that Brennan played in spreading the Russia conspiracy narrative, with particular focus on the largely-discredited dossier.
1 – In a classified setting, Brennan helped lead official briefings to then-President Obama and President-elect Trump on the discredited dossier even though the questionable document was funded by Trump’s primary political opponents. Those two classified briefings were subsequently leaked to the news media and set in motion an avalanche of anti-Trump news media coverage on the dossier’s wild allegations.
In early January 2017, Brennan participated in a classified briefing to Obama on the contents of the 35-page anti-Trump dossier. He also was present at Trump Tower for a classified briefing with Trump on the Russia hacking conspiracy at which the same briefing documents were presented, including a section on the dossier. Former FBI Director James Comey reportedly stayed in the room alone with Trump afterwards to orally brief the incoming president on the most salacious allegations.
Trump was not told at the briefing that the dossier had been paid for by Trump’s primary political opponents, namely Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) via the Perkin Coie law firm.
Brennan’s and Comey’s dossier briefings were then leaked to the news media, setting in motion a storm of news media attention on the dossier, including the release of the document to the public. The briefing also may have provided the veneer of respectability to a document circulated within the news media but widely considered too unverified to publicize.
On January 10, CNN was first to report the leaked information that the controversial contents of the dossier were presented during classified briefings inside classified documents presented one week earlier to Obama and Trump.
The news network cited “multiple US officials with direct knowledge of the briefings” — in other words, officials leaking information about classified briefings — revealing the dossier contents were included in a two-page synopsis that served as an addendum to a larger report on Russia’s alleged attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
The documents were given to the politicians during the briefings delivered by Comey, Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers, the officials told CNN.
Just after CNN’s January 10 report on Comey’s classified briefings about the dossier, BuzzFeed famously published the dossier’s full unverified contents.
The New York Times used CNN’s story on Comey’s briefing to report some contents of the dossier the same day as CNN’s January 10 report on the briefings.
Prior to CNN’s report leaking the Comey briefing to Trump, which was picked up by news agencies worldwide, the contents of the dossier had been circulating among news media outlets, but the sensational claims were largely considered too risky to publish.
All that changed when the dossier contents were presented to Obama and Trump during the classified briefings. In other words, the briefings by Brennan and Comey themselves and the subsequent leak to CNN about those briefings by “multiple US officials with direct knowledge” seem to have given the news media the opening to report on the dossier’s existence as well as allude to some of the document’s most outrageous claims.
2 – Brennan’s CIA co-authored a questionable intelligence report alleging Russia’s intentions for allegedly interfering in the 2016 presidential election included the goal of ensuring Trump was victorious over Hillary Clinton. A House report later accused the CIA and the two other agencies that co-authored that report of politicizing intelligence and other analytical failures.
Brennan’s CIA was one of only three Obama-era intelligence agencies that authored a January 6, 2017 U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) report alleging the Russian government sought to aid Trump’s “election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.” This after numerous mainstream news media articles falsely claimed that all 17 of the United States’ intelligence agencies assessed that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
The other two intelligence agencies that authored the report were Comey’s FBI and the NSA. The report was released by Clapper’s Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
When it came to the charge that Russia interfered in the election specifically to help Trump and harm Clinton, the NSA assessed that conclusion with a classification of “moderate confidence,” while Comey’s FBI and Brennan’s CIA gave it a “high confidence” rating.
The Republican House Intelligence Committee’s 250-page report on alleged Russian collusion concluded a yearlong investigation finding no evidence that Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russia.
One section of the report slams the IC’s finding — affirmed with “high confidence” by Brennan’s CIA — regarding Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strategic intentions for allegedly interfering in the U.S. election. The House investigators found the FBI, CIA and NSA in that case “did not employ proper analytic tradecraft” and the conclusions 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 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.”
3 – Brennan reportedly convened a highly compartmentalized unit of CIA, FBI and NSA analysts to conduct operations related to what eventually became the allegations of Russian interference and controversial claims that Putin worked to elect Trump. The secretive unit was reportedly housed in the CIA’s headquarters. Officials from Obama-era agencies were subsequently accused of multiple improprieties related to this work.
Questions have since been raised about the intelligence community’s methods. The FBI reportedly utilized an informant to communicate with two tangential members of Trump’s presidential campaign. The FBI and officials from other Obama-era agencies utilized the largely-discredited anti-Trump dossier to apply for and receive FISA court warrants to monitor the communications of low-level Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Those officials have faced accusations that the applications failed to inform the FISA court that the dossier was funded by Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the DNC via the Perkins Coie law firm.
Also, Obama officials reportedly unmasked multiple members of Trump’s presidential campaign whose communications were collected allegedly as part of intelligence intercepts of foreign targets.
At a House Intelligence hearing on May 23, Brennan testified that the FBI, CIA and NSA investigation was deliberately “tightly compartmented” from other intelligence agencies.
Asked about the methods used to compile the January 6 U.S. Intelligence Community report on Russia, Brennan stated:
I think it followed the general model of how you want to do something like this with some notable exceptions.
It only involved the FBI, NSA and CIA as well as the Office of Director of National Intelligence; it wasn’t a full interagency community assessment that was coordinated among the 17 agencies and for good reason, because of the nature, the sensitivity of the information trying to, once again, keep them tightly compartmented.
An extensive, 7,700-plus word Washington Post article published June 23 detailed the highly compartmentalized nature of the Russia interference investigation and the manner in which other U.S. intelligence agencies were deliberately kept in the dark.
According to the newspaper, in the summer of 2016 Brennan convened a “secret task force at CIA headquarters composed of several dozen analysts and officers from the CIA, the NSA and the FBI.”
The Post described the unit as so secretive it functioned as a “sealed compartment” hidden even from the rest of the U.S. intelligence community; a unit whose workers were all made to sign additional non-disclosure forms.
The unit reported to top officials, the newspaper documented:
They worked exclusively for two groups of “customers,” officials said. The first was Obama and fewer than 14 senior officials in government. The second was a team of operations specialists at the CIA, NSA and FBI who took direction from the task force on where to aim their subsequent efforts to collect more intelligence on Russia.
The number of Obama administration officials who were allowed access to the Russia intelligence was also highly limited, the Post reported. At first only four senior officials were involved: Brennan, Clapper, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and James Comey. Their aides were all barred from attending the initial meetings, the Post stated.
The newspaper continued:
Gradually, the circle widened to include Vice President Biden and others. Agendas sent to Cabinet secretaries — including John F. Kerry at the State Department and Ashton B. Carter at the Pentagon — arrived in envelopes that subordinates were not supposed to open. Sometimes the agendas were withheld until participants had taken their seats in the Situation Room.
Adding another layer of secrecy, the newspaper reported that when the closed Cabinet sessions on Russia began in the White House Situation Room in August, the video feed from the main room was cut off during the meetings. The feed, which allows only for video and not audio, is usually kept on so that senior aides can see when a meeting takes place.
The paper reported:
The blacked-out screens were seen as an ominous sign among lower-level White House officials who were largely kept in the dark about the Russia deliberations even as they were tasked with generating options for retaliation against Moscow.
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.