The Epoch Times | INVESTIGATION | Jeff Carlson
August 22-28, 2019 | USA Edition
More than 2 1/2 years after President Donald Trump assumed office, focus on actions taken during the 2016 presidential campaign is starting to shift toward the CIA and its former director, John Brennan.
While some observers, including this publication, have pointed out for more than a year that Brennan appears to have played a key role in the scandal that’s become known as Spygate, actions taken by Brennan and the CIA now appear to have become a central focus of investigators.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo that Justice Department Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz was “doing a very in-depth dive about the FISA warrant application” and “the behavior regarding the counterintelligence operation.”
Graham noted that he believed Horowitz’s report would be com ing out in “weeks—not days, not months” and would prove to be “ugly and damning regarding the Department of Justice’s handling of the Russian probe.” Graham noted that the IG’s report has been delayed because “every time you turn around, you find something new.”
Graham said he wants the IG’s report to be as declassified as possible in order for the “American public to hear the story.”
Graham said that prosecutor John Durham “will be looking at criminality, did somebody violate the law,” while Horowitz “will be telling us about the good, the bad, and the ugly, and what should be done internally.” He went so far as to mention exploring a possible restructuring of the Department of Justice.
Toward the end of the segment, Bartiromo asked Graham: “Who do you think is the mastermind of this? Whose idea was it to insert Donald Trump into Russia meddling?”
Graham responded: “You know, I really am very curious about the role the CIA played here. We know that the FISA warrant application was based on a dossier prepared by Christopher Steele, who was biased against Trump, that was unverified. That’s one problem. But this whole intelligence operation— what role did the CIA play?”
Graham then went a step further, asking: “Who knew about this in the White House? Here’s a question: Was President Obama briefed on the fact that they were opening up a counterintelligence investigation against the Trump campaign? I’d like to know that.”
Bartiromo, who noted that Brennan was running the CIA at that time and would have likely provided the Obama briefing, asked Graham if he was going to call Brennan to testify before Congress. Graham responded somewhat cryptically, saying only, “We’ll see.”
Brennan appears to have played a key role in establishing the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign—including making repeated use of questionable foreign intelligence.
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper personally confirmed foreign intelligence involvement during congressional testimony in May 2017: Sen. Dianne Feinstein: “Over the spring of 2016, multiple European allies passed on additional information to the United States about contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians. Is this accurate?”
James Clapper: “Yes, it is, and it’s also quite sensitive. The specifics are quite sensitive.”
Brennan has testified to Congress that any information, specifically “anything involving the individuals involved in the Trump campaign was shared with the bureau [FBI].” Brennan also admitted that it was his intelligence that helped establish the FBI investigation: “I was aware of intelligence and information about contacts between Russian officials and U.S. persons that raised concerns in my mind about whether or not those individuals were cooperating with the Russians, either in a witting or unwitting fashion, and it served as the basis for the FBI investigation to determine whether such collusion [or] cooperation occurred.”
Focus on Intelligence Role Prior to FBI Probe
John Solomon of The Hill, who has extensively covered the Spygate scandal, told Bartiromo in an interview that he was hearing that “John Durham and Bill Barr are focused on the part before the FBI officially got started on July 31, 2016, the period of March to July, and whether intelligence assets—Western, private, or U.S.—were deployed in an earlier effort to start probing the Trump campaign and its Russia ties—maybe lay the breadcrumb trail of evidence that Christopher Steele then collected up and gave to the FBI.”
Solomon noted that when Attorney General Barr said, “I believe there was political surveillance going on,” this was likely what he was referring to.
This focus on the spring of 2016 is particularly interesting given that during this time, Brennan appeared to have employed the use of reverse targeting on members of the Trump campaign. Reverse targeting refers to the targeting of a foreign individual with the intent of capturing data on a U.S. citizen. During an Aug. 17, 2018, interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Brennan said: “We call it incidental collection in terms of CIA’s foreign intelligence collection authorities. Any time we would incidentally collect information on a U.S. person, we would hand that over to the FBI because they have the legal authority to do it. We would not pursue that type of investigative, you know, sort of leads. We would give it to the FBI. So, we were picking things up that was of great relevance to the FBI, and we wanted to make sure that they were there—so they could piece it together with whatever they were collecting domestically here.”
As this foreign intelligence—unofficial in nature and outside of traditional channels— was gathered on members of the Trump campaign, Brennan began his process of feeding his gathered intelligence to the FBI. Repeated transfers of foreign intelligence from the CIA director helped push the FBI toward establishing a formal counterintelligence investigation.
Role of Joseph Mifsud
Solomon also discussed the role of Joseph Mifsud, the individual who told Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos in March 2016 that Russia had Hillary Clinton emails. Solomon noted that he had recently interviewed Stefan Roe, Mifsud’s lawyer, who told him that Mifsud “had long worked with Western intelligence” and that he was “asked to connect George Papadopoulos to Russia— meaning it was an operation, some form of an intelligence operation.”
As Solomon noted, this would mean that the “flashpoint that started the whole investigation was, in fact, manufactured from the beginning.” Solomon also noted that “both John Durham and two different committees in Congress have recently reached out to get this evidence from the lawyer, which includes an audiotaped deposition that Mr. Mifsud gave his lawyer before he went into hiding.”
Bartiromo closed by asking Solomon the same question she put to Graham, “Who do you think is the mastermind?” Solomon responded in a similar fashion to Graham, noting: “I think the CIA. We have to take a closer look at them. We’re starting to see some sign of it.”
Role of UK Intelligence
Luke Harding, a journalist for The Guardian, had previously reported on the early involvement of UK intelligence and their interaction with the U.S. intelligence community, noting that Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) was engaged in collecting information on the Trump campaign and transmitting it to the United States beginning in late 2015: “In late 2015, the British eavesdropping agency GCHQ was carrying out standard ‘collection’ against Moscow targets. … The intelligence was handed to the U.S. as part of a routine sharing of information,” Harding wrote in an article on Nov. 15, 2017.
Additionally, in the summer of 2016, Robert Hannigan, then-head of GCHQ, traveled to Washington to personally meet with Brennan: “That summer, GCHQ’s then head, Robert Hannigan, flew to the U.S. to personally brief CIA chief John Brennan. The matter was deemed so important that it was handled at ‘director level,’ face-to-face between the two agency chiefs,” Harding reported.
Around the same time, Brennan formed an inter-agency task force comprising an estimated six agencies and government departments. Brennan appeared to describe the task force formation during the Aug. 17, 2018, interview with MSNBC’s Maddow: Maddow: “So, it’s an intelligence-sharing operation between …”
Brennan: “Right. We put together a Fusion Center at CIA that brought NSA and FBI officers together with CIA to make sure that those proverbial dots would be connected.”
FBI’s ‘Mid-Year Exam’ Team Shifts to Trump Probe
By the spring of 2016, the Clinton email investigation was winding down. This was due in large part to the fact that the Department of Justice, under Attorney General Loretta Lynch, had decided to set an unusually high threshold for the prosecution of Clinton, effectively ensuring from the outset that she wouldn’t be charged.
In order for Clinton to be prosecuted, the department required the FBI to establish evidence of intent—even though the gross negligence statute explicitly doesn’t require that.
It was at this same time that Trump campaign adviser Papadopoulos had his April 26, 2016, meeting with Mifsud, followed a few weeks later with his ill-fated meeting with Australian diplomat Alexander Downer in
Brennan also admitted that it was his intelligence that helped establish the
Who do you think is the mastermind of this? Whose idea was it to insert Donald
Trump into Russia meddling?
Maria Bartiromo, journalist