A telling exchange took place Wednesday between Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Attorney General William Barr, regarding the actions, or lack thereof, of the Obama administration in regard to Russia targeting the Trump campaign.
Barr appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee and said the Trump campaign was not informed of the threat posed by Russia during the 2016 campaign.
In noting that a “defensive briefing” was routine, where a person being targeted by a hostile intelligence source would be alerted to the risks, Cornyn asked if the Trump campaign received a defensive briefing in 2016 on “what the Russians were trying to do and advise him to tell people affiliated with his campaign to be on their guard and be vigilant about Russian efforts to undermine public confidence in the election.”
“My understanding is that didn’t happen,” Barr replied.
“That failure to provide a defensive briefing to the Trump campaign, that would be an extraordinary or notable failure, would you agree?” the senator asked.
“I think under these circumstances, it’s one of the things I can’t fathom — why it did not happen,” Barr said. “If you’re concerned abut interference in the election and you have substantial people involved in the campaign… I don’t understand why the bureau would not have gone and given a defensive briefing.”
Politico reporter Kyle Cheney reported on Twitter that in the afternoon session, Barr clarified that the Trump campaign did receive a “lesser” briefing on “general” threats.
BARR starts by clarifying that the Trump campaign received a general security briefing, which is “lesser” than a defensive briefing, which is given to the target of a possible foreign intelligence operation.
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) May 1, 2019
The reporter was clear that the briefing was other than a “defensive briefing,” not that many in the media were concerned with such minutia.
“Sen. [John] Cornyn asked me about defensive briefings before, and as I said, there were different kinds of them. I was referring to the kind where you are told of a specific target, you’re a specific target. And I have been told at the break that a lesser kind of briefing, a security briefing that generally discusses general threats apparently was given to the campaign in August,” Barr said in the afternoon session, according to the Washington Examiner.
Citing anonymous government officials familiar with the matter, NBC News said in Dec. 2017 that the Trump campaign was made aware of the risks.
“In the weeks after he became the Republican nominee on July 19, 2016, Donald Trump was warned that foreign adversaries, including Russia, would probably try to spy on and infiltrate his campaign, according to multiple government officials familiar with the matter,” the network reported.
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