Credit to Sean Davis at the Federalist for catching this today. The newly declassified report on Russia from the House Intel Committee states that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was the person who leaked word of the dossier being briefed to Trump last January. From the report:
When initially asked about leaks related to the ICA in July 2017, former DNI Clapper flatly denied “discussing the dossier [compiled by Steele] or any other intelligence related to Russia hacking of the 2016 election with journalists.” Clapper subsequently acknowledged discussing the “dossier with CNN journalist Jake Tapper,” and admitted that he might have spoken with other journalists about the same topic. Clapper’s discussion with Tapper took place in early January 2017, around the time IC leaders briefed President Obama and President-elect Trump, on “the Christopher Steele information,” a two-page summary of which was ” enclosed in” the highly classified version of the ICA.”
Why is that significant? Because according to James Comey, he briefed Trump on the salacious elements of the dossier specifically because he was aware that CNN and other outlets were looking for a “news hook” that would give them an excuse to get the dossier before the public. From Comey’s memo [emphasis added]:
I said I wasn’t saying this was true, only that I wanted him to know both that it had been reported and that the reports were in many hands. I said media like CNN had them and were looking for a news hook. I said it was important that we not give them the excuse to write that the FBI has the material or
REDACTEDand that we were keeping it – I very close-hold. He said he couldn’t believe they hadn’t gone with it. I said it was inflammatory stuff that they would get killed for reporting straight up from the source reports.
“They would get killed” for running it without a news hook. But one week later (after Clapper’s leak), CNN used the briefing itself as the news hook. From CNN:
Classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump, multiple US officials with direct knowledge of the briefings tell CNN.
Finally, according to James Comey, it was DNI Clapper who told him to brief the president on the dossier in the first place.
So to put this back in chronological order:
- News outlets including CNN have the dossier and are looking for an excuse to run it.
- Clapper tells Comey to brief Trump on the dossier just in case CNN or someone runs with it.
- Comey briefs Trump on just the salacious details.
- Clapper leaks back to CNN that Trump and Obama have been briefed on the dossier.
- CNN uses this as the news hook and publishes a story on the dossier.
- Buzzfeed dumps the entire dossier.
- Clapper denies the leak.
- Clapper admits the leak.
- Clapper hired by CNN.
It’s hard to look at that sequence of events and not conclude the briefing itself was a setup. If Clapper had ordered the briefing, knowing CNN was hot to publish a story, and then never leaked anything about it, that would be one thing. But the record shows he leaked the information to Jake Tapper (whose name is on the CNN story) within days after the briefing he had ordered supposedly to protect the president from CNN (and others).
Update: I accidentally omitted this tidbit from the House Intel Report:
In approximately early August 2017, shortly after his t estimony to the committee, Clapper joined CNN as a national security analyst.
I’ve added this to the bullet points above.