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Declassified CIA memo one of several red flags Russia collusion was a Clinton dirty trick

U.S. intelligence officials say newly declassified CIA referral on Russian intercept just one of several red flares spies sent the FBI on Russia collusion narrative.

Updated: October 7, 2020 - 8:57am

The latest declassification from Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe is already being distorted by election politics. Republicans are trumpeting it as a smoking gun, while Democrats are dismissing it as Russian disinformation.

In fact, it is neither, according to a half dozen current and former U.S. intelligence officials who know the real story.

The CIA decision to alert the FBI in September 2016 that there was intelligence showing the Russians believed Hillary Clinton was "stirring up" a false collusion narrative to "vilify" Donald Trump was sent as a red flare, one of several warnings that the bureau had embarked on a fool's errand that could become a source of acute institutional embarrassment.

Between July 2016 and May 2017, the CIA repeatedly warned the FBI that the Russia collusion narrative spun by Christopher Steele's dossier was a combination of political dirty trick by Team Clinton and targeted Russian disinformation.

In rapid succession, the CIA alerted the Crossfire Hurricane team that Russia knew by July 2016 that Clinton had a research operation led by Steele, and by fall 2016 had fed Steele disinformation and that Steele's dossier contained demonstrably false information, according to declassified footnotes from a Justice Department inspector general's investigation.

Likewise, America's premier spy agency also warned America's premier law enforcement agency it was focused on the wrong guy in Trump adviser Carter Page. CIA told FBI that Page was a U.S. intelligence asset, not a Russian stooge.

The FBI hid that crucial information from the FISA Court, in one instance even falsifying a document.

And yet the FBI proceeded to sustain an investigation into Trump-Russia collusion that lacked any evidence to justify its existence, the officials told Just the News. In the process, agents secured a year's worth of surveillance targeting Page and the Trump inner circle that yielded no proof of collusion.

"We had solid evidence Russia was trying to meddle in the election, and we had equally solid evidence the Trump collusion angle was nothing more than a Clinton deflection effort that the Russians picked up on and fed," a senior U.S. intelligence official explained. "Two dirty tricks amplifying each other."

Given that dynamic, the September 2016 referral from CIA to the FBI was a warning in the form of an intelligence referral, an effort to suggest that if the Russians saw the Steele effort as a deflection effort maybe the FBI should see it as such too, officials said.

"Per FBI verbal request, CIA provides the below examples of information the CROSSFIRE HURRICANE fusion cell has gleaned to date," the September 2016 referral from the agency to the bureau read. "An exchange [redacted] discussing US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's approval of a plan concerning US presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian hackers hampering US elections as a means of distracting the public form her use of a private email server."

Two months earlier, then-CIA Director John Brennan briefed Obama, according to handwritten notes written after the briefing.

"We're getting additional insight into Russian activities from [redacted]," Brennan notes read. "CITE alleged approved by Hillary Clinton a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisers to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by the Russian security service."

The FBI knew from the start that Steele's dossier was connected to Hillary Clinton and her campaign. By his own sworn account in a British court earlier this year, Steele told the FBI. His notes of his July 5, 2016 meeting with the FBI prove that.

"We explained that Glenn Simpson/GPS Fusion was our commissioner, but the ultimate client were the leadership of the Clinton presidential campaign and that we understood the candidate herself was aware of the reporting at least, if not us," Steele's notes show him telling the FBI, according to British court records.

Similarly, Justice Department official Bruce Ohr testified that when he alerted the top levels of the FBI and DOJ in summer 2016 to Steele's anti-Trump research, he too warned it was both uncorroborated and connected to Clinton.

"So when I provided it to the FBI, I tried to be clear that this is source information," Ohr testified in 2018. "I don't know how reliable it is. You're going to have to check it out and be aware. These guys were hired by somebody relating to who's related to the Clinton campaign, and be aware you know, they were somehow working associated with the Clinton campaign." 

Evidence now made public shows at least 10 separate Clinton allies fed collusion allegations to the FBI in 2016 and early 2017, an avalanche of political pressure aimed at getting agents to investigate Trump during the campaign and after his election win.

Former FBI general counsel James Baker testified he was acutely aware the bureau had been inundated with unverified allegations of Trump-Russia collusion from Clinton associates in what amounted to a disturbing pressure campaign.

"I had a jaundiced eye about everything, yes," Baker told lawmakers. "I had skepticism about all this stuff. I was concerned about all of this. This whole situation was horrible, and it was novel and we were trying to figure out what to do, and it was highly unusual."

Ratcliffe's latest release wasn't designed to portray the Russian intercepted intelligence as gospel. The CIA doesn't do that. In the end the CIA neither verified the intercept or assessed it to be disinformation.

Rather, the CIA referral was intended as one of several red flares to the FBI that the collusion narrative was likely a ruse, started by Clinton and assisted by Russian intelligence, officials said.

Despite the warnings, the bureau fell for the dirty trick ... hook, line and sinker.

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