Sen. Lindsey Graham has been teasing for days that another shoe was about to drop from the Durham investigation. Yesterday, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe sent a letter to Sen. Graham highlighting newly declassified information about Hillary Clinton, Russia and the 2016 election. Here are the three bullet-points from the letter:
- In late July 2016, U.S. intelligence agencies obtained insight into Russian intelligence analysis alleging that U.S. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had approved a campaign plan to stir up a scandal against U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump by tying him to Putin and the Russians’ hacking of the Democratic National
Committee. The IC does not know the accuracy of this allegation or the extent to which the Russian intelligence analysis may reflect exaggeration or fabrication.
- According to his handwritten notes, former Central Intelligence Agency Director Brennan subsequently briefed President Obama and other senior national security
officials on the intelligence, including the “alleged approval by Hillary Clinton on July 26, 2016 of a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisors to vilify Donald
Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by Russian security services.”
- On 07 September 2016, U.S. intelligence officials forwarded an investigative referral to FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Assistant Director of Counterintelligence Peter Strzok regarding “U.S. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s approval of a plan concerning U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian hackers hampering U.S. elections as a means of distracting the public from her use of a private mail server.”
Before we move on let’s acknowledge up front that line in the first bullet point which reads “The IC does not know the accuracy of this allegation or the extent to which the Russian intelligence analysis may reflect exaggeration or fabrication.” Politico published a story yesterday saying that the Senate investigation was aware of all of this and set it aside, apparently in the belief that this was Russian disinformation. That’s obviously significant and raises questions about why this was released at this point. We’ll come back to that.
Today, former FBI Director James Comey is testifying before the Senate and was asked directly about the referral mentioned in bullet point #3 by Sen. Graham. Comey’s response was that it didn’t ring a bell with him.
NOW: Senate Judiciary hearing. On @DNI_Ratcliffe letter + whether he received an “investigative referral” Sept 2016 about an alleged effort by Clinton campaign to distract from the email probe. @Comey said under oath, “It doesn't ring a bell." @LindseyGrahamSC "It went to you." https://t.co/TqVz44GJX5
— Catherine Herridge (@CBS_Herridge) September 30, 2020
And that’s about all Comey had to say about it. A bit later he added that he had read Ratcliffe’s letter and had trouble understanding it. He didn’t explain what he meant by that.
Granted there’s still some question about the reliability of the underlying information but if President Obama was briefed on this and there was a referral for investigation to the FBI, it seems odd that Comey doesn’t recall anything about it.
As you’re probably already well aware, Comey has a history of not knowing things that everyone else around him seems to know. For instance, in 2018 he told Bret Baier he still didn’t know who had funded the dossier even though the fact that Hillary’s campaign was behind it had been widely reported. When pressed, Comey adopted a false Democratic talking point about the dossier initially being funded by Republicans:
“I still don’t know that for a fact,” Comey replied.
“What do you mean?” Baier said, genuinely confused for the first time in the interview.
“I’ve only seen it in the media. I never knew exactly which Democrats had funded it. I knew it was funded first by Republicans,” Comey said.
“But that’s not true,” Baier interjected.
“I’m sorry?” Comey said.
“That’s not true that the dossier that Christopher Steel worked on was funded by Republicans,” Baier said.
“My understanding was his work started, funded by, as oppo-research funded by Republicans,” Comey said.
This was six months after the information on this topic was widely known. Let’s just say that Comey’s claims of ignorance sometimes strain credulity. And that makes it difficult to take denials like the one he made today seriously.
As for the reliability of the underlying information, last night Democrats were quick to jump on this as Russian disinformation released as a kind of October surprise. DNI Ratcliffe responded to that by putting out a brief statement saying this was “not Russian disinformation.”
position exactly as I feared he would + the abuse is accelerating as we near the election" From @DNI_Ratcliffe “..this is not Russian disinformation + has not been assessed as such by the Intel Community + I'll be briefing Congress on sensitive sources + methods…in coming days” https://t.co/TqVz44GJX5
— Catherine Herridge (@CBS_Herridge) September 30, 2020
The obvious question is how Ratcliffe could know that this was not Russian disinformation. If his own letter states the Intelligence Community isn’t sure about the accuracy of it, what is he basing his statement on? Until we know the basis for his claim this should be taken with a grain of salt.
Still, it’s infuriating to see Democrats pretend to be outraged about about injecting possible Russian disinformation into the public sphere after they spent nearly two years doing the same.
Ratcliffe’s decision to release Russian intelligence he concedes may be false is an obvious domestic political errand with an election weeks away.
But his acknowledgment that it was derived from sensitive sources and methods—which he may now have compromised—is just inexcusable. https://t.co/671Lg0bGPh
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) September 29, 2020
Schiff literally made a career out of alleging there was evidence of collusion with Russia just around the corner. He spent hours on television flogging the reliability of the dossier and took the lead in denying the accuracy of the Nunes memo. He was wrong on every point. And now he’s shocked, shocked! that someone on the other side of the aisle is allegedly playing politics with intelligence. It’s absolutely laughable. There are no Democrats that I can think of who have any credibility to play this card but the single individual with the least credibility of all would have to be Adam Schiff. He should really sit this one out.
There isn’t a clip of the Graham-Comey exchange up yet so I’m embedding the full livestream. If you scroll in to this about 30 minutes you’ll find Graham’s questioning of Comey including the question about the referral.