We’ve been asking this question literally for years: If the DOJ and FBI had reason to suspect that foreign agents were trying to infiltrate the Trump campaign --- seriously enough to justify getting a warrant to spy on U.S. citizens who were Trump associates --- why on earth didn’t they brief Trump and/or top campaign officials about it?
It seems like the sensible thing for them to have done. But thanks to a new report from investigative reporter Sara A. Carter revealing closed-door testimony given by Loretta Lynch, we now find that our intelligence higher-ups handled this situation in a way that defies logic.
Unless they were trying to set up the Trump campaign. Then it’s a great plan.
Lynch’s testimony hasn’t been released publicly yet, but I have a feeling it’s going to be our next gift from Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, who has taken it upon himself in just a week to release unredacted testimony from both Bruce Ohr and Lisa Page. Lynch's testimony is probably next in the queue.
A “defensive briefing” is often used to inform presidential candidates, elected officials and American businesses that are thought to have possibly been unwitting targets of foreign actors (SPIES) who approach them and try to gain their trust. The briefing is done for the target’s own protection, and to safeguard information that a foreign agent might find to be in his own government’s interest. We do this when the agents are from Russia and China, naturally, but even when they’re from allied nations. (Christopher Steele and Alexander Downing are from England and Australia, respectively.) In fact, a senior intelligence official told Sara Carter that it would be required for them to warn those at risk.
Note that this person didn’t say it would be “a good idea” or “might be an option.” It would be REQUIRED. And yet we know this was not done in the case of Donald Trump. Apparently, the Trump campaign got the usual counterintelligence briefing that any campaign would get but did not get any specifics concerning the Russia “threat.”
According to one of Carter’s sources, a former senior intel official, “It is an ESSENTIAL task [emphasis mine] of the FBI and the intelligence community to give a defensive briefing to a presidential candidate when a foreign adversary is attempting to penetrate or make contact with someone in the campaign. If the FBI and DOJ were so concerned about Carter Page and [George] Papadopoulos, why didn’t they brief Trump when he became a candidate? The fact that they didn’t is very revealing. If they gave a defensive briefing to the Clinton campaign, then I think we have the answer.”
Everyone seemed to be so concerned about “Russia Russia Russia!!” infiltrating the Trump campaign, but, gee whiz, NOBODY authorized a defensive briefing. It was discussed by senior officials, including then-FBI Director James Comey, but nobody followed through. And nobody provided a clear answer about why they didn’t.
Lynch was her typical evasive self during her testimony. I swear, this woman is the best crafter of non-answers I have ever heard –- that’s a highly competitive category –- and is also extremely skilled at distancing herself from responsibility. For example, when she was asked if she’d been involved in discussing defensive briefings with the Trump campaign about Carter Page and Papadopoulos, she said this: “Not to the level of giving direction. Again, I’m just being careful because of the nature of the information. Certainly it’s always an option, but at a very early stage, you would have it as an option, and you would evaluate it as time goes on, and I don’t have any information about further resolution of that issue.”
Masterful obfuscation, Ms. Lynch. But a simple “yes” or “no” would have been helpful.
Lisa Page, whose testimony has already been released by Rep. Collins, was asked about defensive briefings as well. She said that Trump was not briefed because he was not a target at the time –- it was his campaign associates who were. As Sara Carter points out, this makes absolutely no sense. They would normally brief a candidate if his associates were targets of a foreign agent. Good lord, to get their FISA warrant, they were accusing campaign associate Carter Page of BEING a foreign agent. (That, of course, was a lie to the FISA court.)
One thing about Lisa Page: she’s much more direct and forthcoming under questioning than Loretta Lynch will ever be. When questioned by Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas, Page testified that they had no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia before launching either the FBI investigation or the special counsel probe.
Page also said that Loretta Lynch was directing the FBI’s “investigation” into Hillary’s mishandling of classified email, to the point of giving them a “direct order” not to charge her. This conflicts with the announcement Lynch made –- soon after talking about grandchildren with Bill Clinton during their chance airport meeting –- that she would defer to the FBI team on whether to press charges against Hillary.
One excuse Page gave for not doing the defensive briefing was that they just didn’t think he was going to be President, so they didn’t want to “burn longstanding sources” providing intel in other Russia-related matters. (Christopher Steele, perhaps?) All right, but wouldn’t they still have informed Trump, for national security reasons if nothing else? It seems to me he even had a right to know. Why would they have kept that information to themselves, if not to try to make him look guilty by association.
Also, Hillary was neck-deep in Russians; did Lynch tell the FBI to give HER a defensive briefing? Not that Mrs. Clinton cared one bit about letting classified information travel around the world to far-flung countries that hate America and that probably got to read her schedule every morning when she was Secretary of State. There’s your security risk, Ms. Lynch. But apparently, lawmakers never asked that question.
And for a refreshingly blunt and entertaining account of the same story, check out the Victory Girls blog. Somebody there is making all the right points and asking all the right questions.
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