Former President Barack Obama and his director of national intelligence, James Clapper, were both briefed in 2016 on reports that then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton planned to vilify Donald Trump by claiming he was colluding with Russia to win the election, according to the final report from Special Counsel John Durham’s investigation into the original Trump-Russia probe.
This week, Durham released a lengthy report detailing the findings of his years-long investigation into the origins of the FBI’s probe, known as “Crossfire Hurricane,” which looked into whether former President Donald Trump and his campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election.
Durham found that there was never any information to justify opening the FBI’s original investigation and that the bureau and the Department of Justice “failed to uphold their mission of strict fidelity to the law.”
The conclusions in the report undermine opponents of Trump who have claimed for years that he colluded with Russia, although some Democrats in Congress and critics in the media have dismissed or downplayed the findings.
As part of its probe, the special counsel’s office considered the government’s handling of intelligence that it received during the summer of 2016 concerning alleged efforts by Clinton to link Trump to Russian interference in the election — information described in the report as the “Clinton Plan intelligence.”
In a 2020 letter to lawmakers cited in Durham’s report, then-Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe described the purported “approval by Hillary Clinton on July 26, 2016 of a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisers to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by the Russian security services.”
Ratcliffe added that Clinton’s alleged plot would hurt Trump by “tying him to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and the Russians’ hacking of the Democratic National Committee,” thereby distracting the public from the investigation into her use of a private email server.
Ratcliffe’s letter and Durham’s report both note that the information came from insight that “U.S. intelligence agencies obtained into Russian intelligence analysis,” adding that the intelligence community can’t for sure know the full accuracy of the allegation.
Nonetheless, the intelligence on Clinton’s plan was shared with Obama, Clapper and other top national security officials right after U.S. officials became aware of it in 2016, according to the report, which outlined what followed.
On Aug. 3, 2016, within days of receiving the Clinton plan in late July, then-CIA Director John Brennan met with Obama, Joe Biden (who was vice president at the time) and other senior officials to discuss Russian efforts to interfere in the election.
According to Brennan’s handwritten notes and his recollections from the meeting, he briefed those present on the Clinton plan. His declassified handwritten notes, the report says, “reflect that he briefed the meeting’s participants regarding the ‘alleged approval by Hillary Clinton on 26 July of a proposal from one of her [campaign] advisers to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by the Russian security services.'”
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