Report: DOJ Intends to Interview Senior CIA Officials as Part of Russia Review

CIA Director John Brennan, pictured February 9, 2016, visited Moscow in early March to discuss Syria
AFP/File/Molly Riley
KRISTINA WONG

Justice Department officials intend to interview senior CIA officials as they review the origins of the 2016 Russia investigation, according to a report.

One of the things the DOJ will review is some intelligence agencies’ assessment that Russia intervened to help President Trump, according to the report by the New York Times.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller notably did not voice that same conclusion during a press conference last month, where he simply said Russia’s hacking and release of Democrat emails was to “damage a presidential candidate.”

According to the report, DOJ investigators want to talk with at least one senior counterintelligence official and a senior CIA analyst who were involved in the agency’s work to understand the Russian campaign to interfere with the election.

The plans have reportedly “provoked anxiety” at the CIA, according to former officials who spoke to the Times. A “person familiar with matter” said the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is still conducting its probe into Russian interference, found “no problems” with the CIA’s work.

An official said Attorney General Barr wants to know more about the CIA’s sources that helped it conclude that Russia specifically wanted to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Trump. Not all intelligence agencies agreed on that assessment with “high confidence.” The National Security Agency reportedly only had moderate confidence in that assessment.

Barr also wants to know more about how intelligence flowed from the CIA to the FBI, according to the report. One of the CIA officers he wants to question works at the CIA’s counterintelligence mission center that would have been one conduit for the CIA to pass intelligence to the FBI.

“C.I.A. officers at the center work closely with the F.B.I. on complex cases like hunting down traitors and helping validate the agency’s informants,” the Times reported.

As Breitbart News’s Aaron Klein has previously reported, in summer 2016 then-CIA Director John Brennan got together with FBI Director James Comey and NSA Chief Mike Rogers to form a small task force at the CIA’s headquarters to conduct the counterintelligence investigation into the Russian influence operation and any links with the Trump campaign.

tThe effort was detailed in the March 2018 book Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump by Michael Isikoff, chief investigative correspondent for Yahoo News, and David Corn, Washington bureau chief of Mother Jones.

They described how a traditional interagency process of deputy chiefs meeting to formalize options for the heads of agencies was bypassed for a more secretive route.

They wrote:

Usually, when the White House invited the deputies and principals to such meetings, they informed them of the subject at hand and provided “read­ ahead” memos outlining what was on the agenda. This time, the agency officials just received instructions to show up at the White House at a certain time. No reason given. No memos supplied. “We were only told that a meeting was scheduled and our principal or deputy was expected to attend,” recalled a senior administration official who participated in the sessions.

The Times report also said the intelligence community formed a task force at the CIA to investigate Russian interference in the summer of 2016. It also said the group shared intelligence with FBI investigators who opened the Russia inquiry to determine whether any Americans were working with the Russians.

The CIA cannot investigate Americans, the Times report notes:

The C.I.A. focuses on foreign intelligence and is not supposed to investigate Americans suspected of wrongdoing. It is supposed to pass on to the F.B.I. any information it acquires in the course of its espionage work about the actions of Americans.

Barr said in a recent interview that, so far, the answers he has received about the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign does not “hang together” and raises more questions.

He has also suggested there was inappropriate “spying” on the Trump campaign, although he has not yet disclosed what evidence he has seen or specified or whether he specifically meant the FBI or the CIA, but he suggested it was both.

“Yes, I think spying did occur,” he told senators at a hearing in April. “Congress is usually concerned about intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies staying in their proper lane, and I want to make sure that happened. We have a lot of rules about that,” he added.

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