If the massively misdirected Trump-Russia investigation were to have a name, “Spygate” would be as good as any. If Spygate had a mastermind, it would be John Brennan, the most partisan CIA director in the agency’s history.
If the report prepared by Special Counsel John Durham has a hole in its center, it is the hole that Brennan should have filled.
Brennan appears to have conned his way up and out. By “voluntarily” making himself available for interviews with Durham, Brennan was able to deflect blame on to those who refused.
The refuseniks include the former FBI personnel at the heart of the scandal – James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Bill Priestap and convicted FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith.
In reading the Durham report, one gets the sense that Brennan let the FBI, Peter Strzok in particular, take the rap for an attempted coup that Brennan, with the blessing of his boss, appears to have led.
Brennan was the one person who knew the most about what Durham awkwardly calls the “Clinton Plan intelligence.” This was the campaign plan hatched by the Hillary Clinton camp “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.”
Clinton approved this plan during the Democratic National Convention, on July 26, 2016. “In late July 2016,” according to Durham, “U.S. intelligence agencies” were made aware of the plan. (All dates are 2016 unless noted otherwise).
The report continues, “The official who initially received the information immediately recognized its importance – including its relevance to the U.S. presidential election – and acted quickly to make CIA leadership aware of it.”
As Durham reports, Brennan “personally received a copy of the intelligence.” He had this information when he met with Obama, Comey and other key personnel in the White House Situation Room on Aug. 3.
We know that Brennan had this intelligence only because former DNI Director John Ratcliffe declassified Brennan’s handwritten notes from this meeting four years later.
The August 2016 meeting would deform American politics for at least the next three years. According to those notes and “his recollections,” Brennan briefed his colleagues “on relevant intelligence known to date on Russian election interference, including the Clinton Plan intelligence.”
When interviewed, however, Brennan claimed he did not recall “focusing” on the “Clinton campaign’s purported plan.” Given the subsequent behavior of the FBI, Brennan may have mentioned the Clinton Plan only in passing, if he mentioned it at all.
Just four days earlier, the FBI had launched “Crossfire Hurricane,” an investigation into alleged collusion between Trump’s camp and the Russians. In the weeks to come the FBI would build a case against Trump and his advisers based to a large degree on the paid disinformation derived from the Clinton Plan.
Comey attended the Aug. 3 meeting. Had Brennan focused on the Clinton Plan, Comey would surely have been more cautious in chasing the Russia collusion phantom if only to avoid embarrassment.
Peter Strzok, who headed up Crossfire Hurricane, missed the Aug. 3 meeting. He was returning from London where he had gone to confer with the Australian diplomat whose encounter with George Papadopoulos triggered the FBI investigation.
Strzok soldiered on with his investigation during the following month, giving no hint that he was on a fool’s errand. “[Trump’s] not going to become president, right? Right?!” his lover Lisa Page texted anxiously on Aug. 8. “No. No, he’s not,” her Quixote responded. “We’ll stop it.”
Comey and the other FBI brass never warned Strzok off. Brennan appears to have kept them in the dark about the Clinton Plan. He let Crossfire Hurricane generate the kind of media buzz that would, as intended, damage the Trump campaign.
The Clinton Plan resurfaced on Sept. 7, probably by mistake. That day, the CIA sent a routine intelligence brief to Comey and Strzok that alluded to “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 email server.”
If Comey or Strzok saw this brief, they did not follow up on it. On Oct. 21, with Strzok’s support, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved the surveillance on hapless Trump adviser Carter Page. The court relied heavily on the information about Page in the Steele dossier, a bogus report paid for by the Clinton camp.
Brennan watched Page’s persecution and the collateral damage to the Trump campaign without protest. Once Brennan left office in January 2017, he eagerly enlisted in the high-level junta plotting to destroy the Trump presidency.
Brennan emerged, in fact, as the junta’s boldest and most authoritative voice. From his posts at NBC News and MSNBC, he railed at Trump with the fury of a Puritan divine preaching infant damnation.
On special occasions, such as Trump’s revocation of his security clearance, Brennan turned to the New York Times. In an Aug. 16, 2018, op-ed, Brennan huffed, “Mr. Trump’s claims of no collusion are, in a word, hogwash.”
Brennan got that wrong. Inexplicably, Durham gives him points for admitting that he did. He cites Brennan’s appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” after the Mueller investigation concluded.
There, Brennan told his startled hosts, “I don’t know if I received bad information, but I think I suspected there was more than there actually was.”
Hogwash! Brennan received good information. He suppressed that and let the bad information flow. After all, he had a president to elect, and she wasn’t Donald Trump.
Jack Cashill’s new book, “Untenable: The True Story of White Ethnic Flight from America’s Cities,” is available for pre-order in all formats.
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