Donald Trump is declassifying information on Fanny Foxe and Wilbur Mills? No, of course that’s the description Trump uses for the “Russia hoax” and its targeting of his 2016 campaign. Last night, Trump announced that all material related to the investigation into Operation Crossfire Hurricane, including all intelligence notes, would be declassified:
I have fully authorized the total Declassification of any & all documents pertaining to the single greatest political CRIME in American History, the Russia Hoax. Likewise, the Hillary Clinton Email Scandal. No redactions! https://t.co/GgnHh9GOiq
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2020
Why now? The catalyst appears to be a recently declassified — but still heavily redacted — set of notes from John Brennan from July 2016. In the notes, the then-CIA director documented his briefing of Barack Obama and other administration officials about the Russia-collusion allegation. According to the notes that weren’t redacted, Brennan told Obama that the Hillary Clinton campaign planned to use this allegation as a distraction from her e-mail scandal (via Jeff Dunetz):
“We’re getting additional insight into Russian activities from [REDACTED],” Brennan notes read. “CITE [summarizing] alleged approved by Hillary Clinton a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisers to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by the Russian security service,” Brennan’s notes read.
The notes state “on 28 of July.” In the margin, Brennan writes “POTUS,” but that section of the notes is redacted.
“Any evidence of collaboration between Trump campaign + Russia,” the notes read.
The remainder of the notes are redacted, except in the margins, which reads: “JC,” “Denis,” and “Susan.” ”
The notes don’t spell out the full names but “JC” could be referring to then-FBI Director James Comey, “Susan” could refer to National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and “Denis” could refer to Obama chief of staff Denis McDonough.
If this is accurate (and if the redactions don’t contradict it), it means that the CIA tried to warn Obama and possibly the FBI that the Steele memo was a big red herring. Nor was it apparently Brennan’s last attempt to warn the administration. DNI John Ratcliffe also declassified another Brennan document, this one a memo to Comey and Peter Strzok that warned again that the intelligence included information that this was a Clinton distraction effort:
“Per FBI verbal request, CIA provides the below examples of information the CROSSFIRE HURRICANE fusion cell has gleaned to date,” the memo states. “An exchange [REDACTED] discussing US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s approval of a plan concerning US presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian hackers hampering US elections as a means of distracting the public from her use of private e-mail server.”
As Fox notes, this explains a sharp exchange between Lindsey Graham and Comey last week:
Meanwhile, last week, during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Comey was asked whether he received an investigative referral on Clinton from 2016, but he said it didn’t “ring any bells.”
“You don’t remember getting an investigatory lead from the intelligence community? Sept. 7, 2016, U.S. intelligence officials forwarded an investigative referral to James Comey and Strzok regarding Clinton’s approval of a plan [about] Trump…as a means of distraction?” Graham asked Comey.
“That doesn’t ring any bells with me,” Comey said.
“That’s a pretty stunning thing that it doesn’t ring a bell,” Graham fired back. “You get this inquiry from the intelligence community to look at the Clinton campaign trying to create a distraction, accusing Trump of being a Russian agent or a Russian stooge.”
Graham questioned “how far-fetched is that,” citing the fact that Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, through law firm Perkins Coie, hired Fusion GPS and ex-British intelligence officer Christopher Steele to author and compile information for the controversial and unverified anti-Trump dossier.
Either Comey lied, or he’s not good at reading his mail. Can’t wait for his next tome on leadership to find out which it is.
Jeff has the documents themselves embedded at his site, as does Fox News in their article. Both releases have so many redactions, however, that it prompts questions about what else might still be untold within them. Did Brennan entirely dismiss Crossfire Hurricane in this briefing? Or did Ratcliffe selectively redact these documents to expose the most damaging to the FBI (and Obama) while keeping anything mitigating — such as actionable intel — under wraps? It’s a fair question, especially since this entire four-year affair has been characterized by selective and political leaks on all sides.
It’s such a fair question, in fact, that it seems to be what prompted Trump to order the complete declassification of all this information. That would lift all the redactions in these and other documents, with uncertain political and intelligence-gathering consequences. It would also rob the manipulators of their ability to selectively leak material while hiding behind classified designations and perhaps even anonymity, which has benefits of its own.
However, one has to ask — why now? Why didn’t Trump order this declassification at the end of the Mueller probe? It will take weeks, perhaps months, to sift through all of the material and attempt to recreate what actually took place. Had Trump done this even after the Senate impeachment trial on other grounds (but still clearly driven by Russia-gate passions), it might have proven salutary in his re-election bid. Had Trump declassified it even in July on the four-year anniversary of the launch of Crossfire Hurricane, it still would have left plenty of time to discover what Obama and Joe Biden knew and whether they helped perpetrate “the single greatest political CRIME in American History.”
At this point, however, it’s probably too late. Even if everything came out in a rush and it proves Trump right about the “crime,” it will be colored by the obvious electoral implications — and ignored by the mainstream media for just long enough that it won’t matter. Trump had the authority to act on this for the last four years, and the political room for it since Mueller testified in the middle of last year. His hesitation may prove very costly.