- National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe declassified a questionable claim from Russian intelligence sources that former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton “approved a campaign plan to cause a scandal” against the Republican candidate for the Donald Trump era and his ties to Russia.
- Ratcliffe said in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham that the US intelligence community “does not know the accuracy” of the allegation “or the extent to which the Russian intelligence analysis may reflect an exaggeration or a fabrication ”.
- The DNI’s decision raised questions about why the country’s spy chief declassified information that had not been corroborated and which he himself admitted could be false or exaggerated.
- Ratcliffe’s decision to release derogatory information about Clinton also reflects Moscow’s ongoing disinformation campaign against the former secretary of state.
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John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, declassified questionable information from a “Russian intelligence analysis” in 2016, alleging that then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton “had approved a campaign plan to stir up a scandal “Against the Republican candidate of the time Donald Trump” by linking him to Putin and the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee. ”
Ratcliffe leaked the information in a letter to Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and one of Trump’s staunchest allies in Congress.
However, the letter says the US intelligence community “is not aware of the accuracy of this allegation or the extent to which the analysis of Russian intelligence may reflect an exaggeration or fabrication.”
—Andrew Desiderio (@AndrewDesiderio) September 29, 2020
Ratcliffe’s decision immediately raised questions about why the country’s top intelligence official declassified information the United States could not corroborate, and which Ratcliffe himself admitted could be false. or exaggerated.
Additionally, as several observers have pointed out, Ratcliffe’s decision to release derogatory information about Clinton from Russian intelligence sources appears to reflect Moscow’s ongoing disinformation campaign against the former secretary of state.
The president and his allies have also amplified this claim in recent years, alleging without evidence that the Clinton campaign was colluding with the Ukrainian government to prepare a Trump-Russia plot and sabotage its campaign. U.S. intelligence officials saw no evidence to support this claim, and a bipartisan report by the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee also concluded the same.
The intelligence community also determined in early 2017 that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his government and intelligence agencies to conduct an elaborate and thorough campaign to interfere in the 2016 general election. Putin was to damage Clinton and propel Trump to the Oval Office, according to the United States assessment.
Nick Merrill, a spokesman for Clinton, called the allegations in Ratcliffe’s letter “baseless bullshit” in a text message to Politico.
Frank Montoya, a recently retired FBI special agent, told Business Insider in a text message that the allegation published by Ratcliffe “looks like more Russian disinformation” intended to protect “the Russian intelligence effort to undermine our sovereignty. This is how Russia (like the Union before it) carries out disinformation operations. ”
“Moreover, this is old news, which means the IC has had years to corroborate it and has not been able to do so,” he added. Montoya said the DNI’s decision was particularly striking given that when he served in Congress, he and other Republicans spoke out against the release of unsubstantiated information related to the so-called Steele dossier, a collection not verified by notes from a former British intelligence officer alleging collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“Ratcliffe serves as a political buddy to the President’s allies on demand, seemingly unaware of whether it’s A) correct or B) in the service of a foreign disinformation campaign,” Ned Price, former senior director of the National Security Council under the President Barack Obama, written on twitter.
“This is Russian disinformation,” Rachel Cohen, spokesperson for Democratic Senator Mark Warner, deputy chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, tweeted. “Cleared by the director of national intelligence and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. It’s extraordinary. ”
Ratcliffe’s letter also stated that John Brennan, the director of the CIA at the time of the July 2016 “Russian intelligence analysis”, had informed Obama and other senior officials of this information.
In September 2016, the letter said, US intelligence officials “passed a request for an investigation” to then FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Deputy Director of Counterintelligence Peter Strzok. The referral concerned “Clinton’s approval of a plan regarding ‘Trump’ and Russian hackers obstructing the US election as a way to divert public attention from his use of a private mail server.
Ratcliffe’s letter stated that Attorney General William Barr, whom Trump solicited to lead the Department of Justice last year, “advised that disclosure of this information would not interfere with ongoing Department of Justice investigations. Justice ”.
Trump sacked Comey in May 2017 after confirming the existence of the FBI investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. And the office fired Strzok after learning he had exchanged anti text messages. -Trump with Lisa Page, who was an FBI lawyer at the time. Comey is scheduled to testify before Graham’s committee on Wednesday.
Ratcliffe was confirmed as DNI earlier this year after Trump ousted Joseph Maguire, the former acting DNI after allowing an official to brief Congress on Russia’s continued interference in the 2020 election.
Ratcliffe was previously a congressman from Texas and one of Trump’s biggest attack dogs on Capitol Hill. He made headlines last year when he berated former special advocate Robert Mueller when the latter testified before the House Judiciary Committee about the Russia inquiry.
Trump initially appointed Ratcliffe as DNI shortly after that hearing in July 2019, but Ratcliffe withdrew from the exam after learning he inflated his resume and misled the public about his oversight role. counterterrorism efforts at the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas. Trump appointed him a second time earlier this year, and he was confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate in May.