Why? Motive for CIA-FBI-NSA joint assessment 2 weeks before inauguration still unclear

by WorldTribune Staff, November 26, 2017

Top Obama-named U.S. intelligence officials, in a coordinated public assessment, on Jan. 6, 2017 publicly stated that Russian President Vladimir Putin had instructed Russian operatives to help engineer Donald Trump’s move to the White House.

The monumental announcement was made 14 days before Trump’s inauguration and was a watershed moment. After all, “the CIA, National Security Agency and FBI [were] challenging the legitimacy of a U.S. presidential victory,” Dan Boylan and Guy Taylor wrote earlier this month as part of a Washington Times series titled “Vlad’s Vengeance”.

Obama intel officials met with President-elect Donald Trump for the first, and only, time on Jan. 6, 2017 at Trump Tower. / Getty Images

The statement by the Director of National Intelligence drew on findings by the FBI, CIA, and NSA, and “concluded” with “high confidence” that “Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election” that targeted the Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton.

The findings by the CIA, NSA and FBI, however, “unraveled 10 months later, raising questions about the basis for the evidence and the motives of the Obama appointees leading the nation’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies,” the Times report said.

“It left me scratching my head,” said one intelligence source with personal access to former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and ex-CIA Director John Brennan, two of the men who had signed off on the assessment.

Boylan and Taylor noted that “There was no supporting documentation of how America’s top spies arrived at the brazen conclusion that Russians had ‘gained access to’ and ‘exfiltrated large volumes of data’ from Democratic National Committee computers, an explosive claim that sent shock waves across the U.S. political and intelligence landscapes.”

Now, Democrats and Republicans are admitting that Putin’s effort “were intended not to elect Mr. Trump but to sow chaos in American politics no matter who emerged as the victor,” the report said.

A source close to Clapper and Brennan told the Washington Times that “I actually called them both the day after it came out and asked, ‘Why was it so thin?’ The answer I got was simple: There was a serious counterintelligence operation going on.”

Stephen Slick, a former CIA Clandestine Service officer, told The Times that “In drafting the unclassified [Jan. 6 assessment], the authors were walking a fine line by including enough evidence to persuade readers that their conclusions were sound, but not enough data that would reveal the actual sources or the means by which they linked these activities to the Russian government.”

It was also on Jan. 6, 2017 when Trump met in Trump Tower with the Obama-era intelligence chiefs for the first and last time, Boylan and Taylor noted, adding “no photos exist of that Friday visit by Mr. Clapper, Mr. Brennan, NSA Director Michael Rogers and FBI Director James B. Comey, whom Mr. Trump would fire five months later citing his unhappiness with the Russia meddling investigation. The four, who boasted almost 140 years of military, law enforcement and spying experience, had dodged the assembled paparazzi in the lobby before gathering for about two hours with Mr. Trump and his advisers in a Trump Tower conference room.”

The president-elect and Obama’s intelligence chiefs “hated each other,” a former official who worked with both camps told the Washington Times.

A day before the meeting at Trump Tower, Clapper had told the Senate Armed Services Committee that policymakers, and especially “Policymaker No. 1,” should have healthy skepticism toward the intelligence community. He also added that there was “a difference between skepticism and disparagement.”

Hours later, Trump tweeted: “The Democratic National Committee would not allow the FBI to study or see its computer info after it was supposedly hacked by Russia.”

Boylan and Taylor noted that Trump “was right. No federal authorities had ever examined the DNC’s hacked server. The FBI, the CIA and the broader intelligence community had all relied upon a private firm closely linked to the DNC to determine that Russians were responsible for the hack. Mr. Trump’s follow-up tweet the night of Jan. 5 – the day before the fateful Trump Tower gathering – was even more pointed: ‘So how and why are they so sure about hacking if they never even requested an examination of the computer servers? What is going on?’ ”

A few hours after Comey and the other intelligence chiefs left Trump Tower, Clapper’s office released a declassified version of the assessment on Russian meddling in the election.

Slick said he, like everyone else, jumped on it.

“The [assessment’s] authors knew full well that their paper would be urgently scrubbed in Moscow,” said Slick, who added that the goal would be to discover “how U.S. intelligence collected the information on these activities and, perhaps more important, what analytic techniques the U.S. side used to attribute the actions not only to the Russian government, but directly to President Putin.”

Two high-level Russian officials told the Washington Times that they and others ran to a secure facility to read and discuss the paper upon its release only to find there was little to be gleaned from the document.

“It was thinner than thin,” one of the officials said. “Of course, the American spies today would argue that they kept it thin because they didn’t want to expose American sources to the Russians.”

The other Russian envoy shook his head. “I believe it was a total fraud and it was very badly concocted, to say the least,” he said. “It was clearly done to divert attention away from all the infighting and backstabbing that was going on inside the Democratic Party. It was also a perfect move to place the blame on someone else – a foreign power – for Hillary’s defeat.”

Fred Fleitz, a 19-year CIA veteran who served as a chief of staff for John R. Bolton during the George W. Bush administration, said in a Fox News op-ed the day after the assessment was made public that the entire purpose of the report was apparently “to undermine the legitimacy of Trump’s election. He called the assessment “rigged for political purposes” and lamented that it contained “serious accusations of Russian interference” but “did not back them up with evidence.”

On Jan. 10, BuzzFeed published the Trump-Russia dossier.

Within minutes, Trump turned to his twitter account, writing: “FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!”

The president-elect swung again with a 4:48 a.m. tweet the next morning: “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?”

Boylan and Taylor noted that “After breakfast, Mr. Trump prepared to go downstairs to Trump Tower’s marble atrium to hold his first press conference in 167 days. It took just five sentences before he was talking about the dossier, dismissing it outright and slamming intelligence officials by again accusing them of leaking it.

“But observers reading between the lines of Mr. Trump’s hourlong performance that day came away with something else. For months, he had been dismissing the notion that it was Russia that hacked the DNC and Clinton campaign emails.

“Now, he suddenly changed his tune. ‘As far as hacking,’ he said. “’ think it was Russia.’ ”

Read the full report here

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