Get the latest BPR news delivered free to your inbox daily. SIGN UP HERE.
A newly declassified document shows that an FBI agent used a 2016 briefing on election interference as a “cover” to monitor then-candidate Donald Trump.
Notes by FBI agent Joe Pientka for an Aug. 17, 2016 briefing to Trump, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were part of the document declassified by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, according to Fox News. Trump’s first intelligence briefing when he was a presidential candidate came as the FBI had just launched their investigation of his campaign’s alleged ties with Russia.
The briefing was used as “a cover to listen for any remarks” about Russia by Trump or anyone else, Fox News, citing an unnamed source, reported.
The briefing, “in support of ODNI briefings provided to U.S. Presidential candidates and two of their advisors,” was held at the FBI’s New York Field Office and included ODNI briefer Edward Gistaroa as well as a “13- minute defensive briefing” that Pientka reportedly delivered.
The seven-page summary document had been filed as part of the so-called Crossfire Hurricane investigation. It was also filed under “Crossfire Razor,” the FBI probe into Michael Flynn as well as “Russia Sensitive Investigative Matter,” and FARA, the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
The timing of the briefing was very interesting, as noted by CBS News investigative reporter Catherine Herridge.
Newly declassified records show FBI briefing to then-candidate Trump, @GenFlynn @GovChristie on August 17, 2016. TIMING + CONTEXT: 17 days after FBI opened Crossfire Hurricane July 31, 2016 + 9 days after Strzok/Page “we’ll stop him” text + 2 days after “insurance policy” text.
— Catherine Herridge (@CBS_Herridge) July 23, 2020
“During the [intelligence] briefs, writer actively listened for topics or questions regarding the Russian Federation,” Pientka wrote in notes that were “approved” by FBI officials Kevin Clinesmith and Peter Strzok.
The source told Fox News that it was incumbent on Pientka, who was running the FBI probe of Flynn, to “warn and tell the candidate what they needed to watch out for,” noting that he did not directly warn that the “Russians were targeting the campaign.”
“Joe, are the Russians bad? Because they have more numbers, are they worse than the Chinese?” Trump reportedly asked Pientka during the briefing.
“Both countries are bad,” the FBI agent responded, according to his notes.
“During the ODNI briefs, writer actively listened for topics or questions regarding the Russian Federation,” Pientka wrote in notes that also indicated that the ODNI briefer said the U.S. “is the world leader in Counterterrorism.”
“Trump then asked, ‘Russia too?'” Pientka wrote. “During a discussion regarding nuclear testing, Russia and China were brought up as cheating on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Trump asked, ‘Who’s worse?’ [REDACTED] stated ‘they are both bad, but Russia is worse.'”
“Trump and Christie turned toward each other and Christie commented, ‘I’m shocked,'” the notes read.
The newly-declassified document “shows the same cast of virulent characters that spearheaded the Russia hoax, set Trump up from jump,” a senior administration official told Fox News.
“Clinesmith, the FISA forger and his trusted sidekick, Strzok, attempted to make good on their promise to prevent Trump from winning,” the official said. “A scam briefing from a scam crew of miscreants at the FBI.”
According to Fox News:
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz last year found that Clinesmith altered an email to say that former Trump campaign aide Carter Page had not been a CIA source, when in fact he had been working with them. This ultimately led to the FBI renewing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant against Page while leaving exculpatory evidence out of their application.
Pientka participated in the January 2017 White House interview that led to Flynn’s prosecution.
Another declassified document dated August 17, 2016, was apparently Pientka’s outline for the meeting and was labeled “Crossfire Hurricane” and “Outline used during Trump brief on 8/17/16.” Hand-written notes in the margins included a question Flynn asked Pientka during the briefing.
“How many Special Agents are in the FBI?” Flynn asked and Pientka replied “over 10,000.”
He also reportedly asked if the threat from Russia was “worse now than during the Cold War?”
“Writer responded that the number of identified known and suspected IOs from hostile Foreign Intelligence Services posted in the U.S. are equal to or greater than during the Cold War,” the document read.
The declassified documents were transmitted to Capitol Hill by Ratcliffe and sent to Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who have been investigating the origins of the Russia probe.
From @SenRonJohnson @ChuckGrassley + link to all records released to Congress by @DNI_Ratcliffe “Newly declassified records illustrate how federal agents hijacked an August 2016 security briefing to surreptitiously gather information on Trump campaign officials.
— Catherine Herridge (@CBS_Herridge) July 24, 2020