In declassified testimony, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper undermined the thesis of Russia collusion narrative that outlandishly claimed Russia wanted Donald Trump to win the 2016 presidential election because it possessed so-called blackmail information on the politician, or due to any purported collusion.
Instead, Clapper explained that Russia was largely motivated by animus against Hillary Clinton as well as a general strategic assessment from afar that Trump’s deal-making business background could make him easier to negotiate with.
Clapper also admitted the following: “I never saw any direct empirical evidence that the Trump campaign or someone in it was plotting [or] conspiring with the Russians to meddle with the election.”
The July 17, 2017, executive session with the House Intelligence Committee was conducted at the height of Russia collusion furor — two months after Robert Mueller was appointed Special Counsel to probe the eventually discredited Russia collusion claims.
Those charges came as the FBI under James Comey used the infamous anti-Trump dossier financed by Trump’s political enemies to obtain successive warrants to spy on a Trump campaign advisor. The dossier, which also reportedly helped form a roadmap for the FBI’s collusion probe, wildly claims that the Russians possessed potential blackmail material against the president.
Yet in testimony that remained classified until the transcripts were released yesterday, Clapper outlined the following reasons he claimed Russia wanted Trump to win:
I think they believed — I mean, the first point, I think they had three objectives: One was to sow discord. Secondly, because of the significant personal animus that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin had for both the Clintons, both President Clinton and Secretary Clinton, so anything you do to undermine her.
And, in fact, at one point they kind of — reading the polls they believed that she was going to win and then their focus seemed to turn to how could they undermine up potential Clinton presidency.
I do think, though, they thought that…President Trump would be easier to deal with,” Clapper said. “He is a businessman. He’d be more willing to negotiate and make deals. And I don’t think it was anything more sophisticated than that sort of guided their objectives.
Hatred of the Clintons and a general assessment of Trump are far cries from the collusion claims that the Trump campaign was secretly working with Russia, or that Russia possessed blackmail information against the billionaire.
The dossier authored by former British spy Christopher Steele was the source for some of those claims. Steele was working on behalf of Fusion GPS, which was paid to produce the dossier by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and the Democratic National Committee via the Perkins Coie law firm. The FBI’s warrants to spy on campaign adviser Carter Page never specifically informed the FISA court of the dossier’s origins with Fusion GPS or Clinton campaign financing.
Meanwhile, there have been other indications of problems regarding the U.S. intelligence community assessment of Russian intentions when it came to the 2016 presidential election.
The January 6, 2017, U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) document assessing Russian interference efforts contained a notable assessment difference. In the IC report, the National Security Agency (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.
A previous Republican House Intelligence Committee’s 250-page report on alleged Russian collusion raised questions about the “high confidence” assessment by the FBI and CIA, perhaps explaining why the NSA didn’t share the conclusion when it came to Russian intentions regarding Trump during the election.
The House report found 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.”
Also, there is a different narrative on the topic contained inside Clapper’s 2018 book. It was Clapper’s agency that released the IC report.
As Breitbart News reported, Clapper’s book describes numerous shifts in Russia’s alleged attitude toward Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.
At first, Clapper writes that Russia simply opposed 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.
Comey himself conceded that Russia’s primary goals were first to cause election chaos generally and then to ensure the defeat of Hillary Clinton. Russia’s third priority was to help Trump win the election, Comey stated.
Comey made the comments while speaking at a May 2019, CNN town hall event.
Here is the relevant portion of the transcript:
QUESTION: Hi, Director Comey. Having lived in Russia, I can tell you that the public opinion of President Trump there is lukewarm to negative at best. It also seems that the personal relationship between Putin and Trump has cooled. So personal collusion is pretty hard to buy into.
As such, do you think there are other Russian goals behind U.S. election interference beyond trying to destabilize our faith in American democracy and undermine our world leadership geopolitically?
COMEY: Well, they had three goals last election cycle, and Donald Trump was actually third on the list.
The first, as you said, was they want to dirty up this democracy so it’s not an example for other nations around the world.
Second, they wanted to hurt Hillary Clinton, who Vladimir Putin hated.
And last, they wanted to help Donald Trump, who even they weren’t sure could win the election.
Clapper’s testimony was part of yesterday’s release of 57 transcripts from witness interviews conducted by the House Intelligence Committee during its Russia probe in 2017 and 2018.
Rep. Adam Schiff, whose committee released the documents, claimed the transcripts “show precisely what Special Counsel Robert Mueller also revealed: That the Trump campaign, and Donald Trump himself, invited illicit Russian help, made full use of that help, and then lied and obstructed the investigations in order to cover up this misconduct.”
The transcripts, however, show testimony that senior officials didn’t possess any evidence of collusion.
Citing a source with knowledge of Schiff’s release efforts, Breitbart’s Matt Boyle reported Schiff had only planned to release partial transcripts with the goal of presenting a certain narrative.
That changed, the source said, when Richard Grenell, acting national intelligence director, informed Schiff the transcripts were ready to be more fully released and that Granell was planning a full release if Schiff didn’t do so.
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.
Joshua Klein contributed research to this article. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaKlein
Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.