Notes from a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent during an intelligence briefing in August 2016 that was supposed to be a routine briefing for presidential candidates but was secretly used to spy on the Trump campaign were released Thursday.
The August 30, 2016, notes revealed that the FBI agent took special note of anything then-candidate Donald Trump and his adviser Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Michael Flynn said or asked regarding Russia.
The notes also show neither Trump nor Flynn saying anything suspicious, and that the FBI never warned the Trump campaign that they were suspected targets of a Russian operation — even as they briefed it on common foreign intelligence threats that campaigns face.
The notes were released after being requested from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) and were declassified by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz revealed last year that the FBI had used the briefing — that was supposed to help presidential campaigns be aware of foreign intelligence threats — as an opportunity to spy on the campaign.
The notes, written by FBI agent Joe Pientka, were filed under “Crossfire Hurricane” — the code name the FBI gave its investigation of the Trump campaign for potential collusion with Russians. Pientka, at the time of the briefing, was running the investigation at the FBI into Flynn.
The briefing was led by the Office of the National Director of Intelligence, but Pientka briefed for 13 minutes.
Pientka wrote that he briefed Trump and his advisers on the number of estimated FBI cases on known or suspected Russian intelligence officers posted to the U.S., as well as the number of estimated cases on known or suspected Chinese intelligence officers, which was almost as many as the Russians.
Trump asked the following question, ‘Joe, are the Russians worse — they have more numbers are they worse than the Chinese?’ [I] responded by saying both countries are bad. The numbers of [intelligence officers] present in the U.S. is not an indicator of the severity of the threat. [I] reminded Trump the Chinese asymmetrical presence in the U.S.
Pientka also took note of Flynn asking him how many special agents are in the FBI, how many high value targets the FBI had, and telling Trump that the FBI did not have enough resources to deal with those targets.
Pientka also noted that Flynn asked whether the number of known or suspected foreign intelligence officers was worse than during the Cold War, to which Pientka responded that it was equal to or greater than during the Cold War.
Pientka also wrote that during the ODNI’s portion of the briefing:
During the ODNI briefs, [I] actively listened for topics or questions regarding the Russian Federation. During Mulligan’s brief, he stated the U.S. is the world leader in Counterterrorism. Trump then asked,” Russia too? ” During a discussion regarding nuclear testing, Russia and China were brought up as cheating on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Trump asked,”Who’s worse? ” [Redacted] stated,”They are both bad, but Russia is worse.” Trump and Christie turned toward each other and Christie commented,” I’m shocked.”
Pientka’s summary for Crossfire Hurricane was “approved” by FBI official Kevin Clinesmith and Peter Strzok.
Clinesmith was discovered last year by the Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz to have purposely doctored an email to say that former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page had not been a CIA source, when he in fact was — just as the FBI was seeking to renew its secret surveillance warrant on Page.