There’s been a huge development related to the story we brought you a few days ago about Peter Strzok’s plan to use President Trump’s first official intelligence briefing to spy on him in January of 2017. Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe on Thursday declassified a memo that details the specifics of an earlier briefing, with then-candidate Trump, in August of 2016. That briefing must have made Strzok very happy, because one can see from this new memo that they were already using such meetings to spy on Trump when he was still a candidate.
In fact, they filed the memo in several very interesting places mostly unrelated to the stated purpose of the briefing: under “Crossfire Hurricane,” code name for the “Trump/Russia” investigation; under “Crossfire Razor,” code name for the investigation of Michael Flynn; under “FARA,” the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and also under the vaguely titled “Russia Sensitive Investigative Matter.”
As reported by John Solomon, the memo shows that agent Joe Pientka attempted to gather evidence against both Trump and Flynn, not just briefing the candidate but also writing down the questions Trump asked during the meeting and scrutinizing the demeanor of attendee Flynn as well.
Recall that Strzok wrote later in an email to his boss Bill Priestap that he was “angry” (his word) he’d been left out of the loop ahead of the January 2017 briefing, as he planned to use it to further his investigation and wanted to offer input beforehand. In other words, this was far more than just an intelligence briefing; it was a set-up to play "gotcha" with the newly-inaugurated President, and his colleagues knew it. Unbelievable.
But true. As for the earlier briefing of then-candidate Trump, a source told FOX NEWS that “...the briefing was used as ‘a cover to listen for any remarks’ by Trump or others about the Russian federation.” See the report by Brooke Singman and Gregg Re here.
This intelligence briefing, held August 17, 2016, was supposedly to brief candidate Trump on foreign election interference. But according to the typewritten notes of FBI agent Joe Pientka, the agent “actively listened” for what was said on certain topics, particularly the Russian federation, using his 13-minute briefing for “cover” to monitor both Donald Trump and Michael Flynn.
The briefing was held at the FBI’s New York Field Office. Also in attendance was Trump campaign adviser and former candidate New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. (As far as we know, all this is news to him.)
It was Pientka’s duty as the one giving the briefing to “warn and tell the candidates what they needed to watch out for.” Yet even with their supposed evidence about the Russians targeting the Trump campaign, Pientka did not tell Trump and/or Flynn that this was happening.
Interestingly, the document written by Pientka and supplied to FOX NEWS shows that it was approved by both Peter Strzok and Kevin Clinesmith. Clinesmith, you’ll recall, is the subject of a criminal referral –- so far the only one we know of –- for altering a document to say that Carter Page had not worked as our own asset for the CIA when he actually had done just that. (Page’s work with the CIA would have been exculpatory evidence for him, but somehow they ‘forgot’ to mention it in the FISA application to spy on him, altered evidence of it, and accused Page of being a Russian agent instead.)
According to the FOX NEWS source, Pientka was at that time also handling the FBI’s investigation into Flynn. (Recall that Pientka and Strzok were the two agents who went to the White House to interview Flynn just a few days into his new job as Trump’s new national security adviser.) The same source told FOX NEWS that the briefing was used as “a cover to listen for any remarks” by candidate Trump or others about the Russian federation.
Note that these officials were really out to get Flynn at that time; this particular incident of spying may have been just as much about snagging HIM as it was about stopping candidate Trump. With all Flynn knew about the inner workings of the intelligence community, they did NOT want him working with Trump. This concern would no doubt become a desperate one after Trump was elected.
Another senior administration official did not hold back in commenting to FOX NEWS, saying that this document “shows the same cast of virulent characters that spearheaded the Russia hoax and set Trump up from ‘jump.’” They were trying to make good on their promise to keep Trump from winning. It was “a scam briefing from a scam crew of miscreants at the FBI.”
Then-FBI Director James Comey later testified that he had assured President Trump he was not personally under investigation. (Recall that Trump at the time was understandably upset that Comey wouldn’t come out and state it publicly.) But Comey was lying to Trump. The FBI had Trump under an electron microscope, both before and after he was in office.
Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, on Sean Hannity’s TV show Thursday night, clarified how they conducted that early briefing. “The FBI went to then-candidate Trump...They told him Russia might try to spy on you; what they didn’t tell him is, ‘WE’RE spying on you.” And they did it just 17 days into this investigation. It opens on July 31; August 17, they do this. Thirteen minutes for the ‘defensive briefing,’ the part...you’re supposed to get; and then an hour and 42 minutes where they’re trying to get information and set the [candidate] up.”
Jordan went on to say that this came very shortly after Strzok’s August 8 text to Lisa Page in which he said, “We’ll stop it [Trump’s election],” and his August 15 text to Page about the “insurance policy” discussed in “Andy’s office” (Andrew McCabe). Just two days later, they start implementing that insurance policy.
Gregg Jarrett, also on Hannity’s show, brought up the fact that Pientka has been scrubbed from the FBI website and is now cloistered in the San Fransisco Field Office, where the FBI refuses to make him available after repeated demands by Congress. And who is responsible for that, as well as for the excruciating delays in releasing these memos? Why, that would be current FBI Director Christopher Wray, of course! Every time we have a story that involves slow-walked evidence, we always seem to end up back at Wray’s office door, which is always closed.