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DNI Declassifies Trump, Flynn Defensive Briefing From 2016, Revealing Extent Of Spying On Trump Team

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Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe partially declassified numerous documents Thursday on the FBI’s defensive briefing given in August, 2016 to then Republican candidate Donald Trump, former national security advisor Michael Flynn and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Those documents are now public and have been reviewed by this reporter.

Ratcliffe sent the declassified briefing documents to Senators Charles Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Ron Johnson, with the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

“Pursuant to multiple prior requests regarding intelligence briefings provided during the 2016 Presidential campaign, including your letters dated 25 April 2019; 16 October 2019; and 16 April 2020, please see the enclosed declassified documents,” Ratcliffe stated in a letter to the Senators.

The now declassified defensive briefing documents from 2016, were signed and approved by former FBI Special Agent Kevin Clinesmith, who was outed by the DOJ’s Inspector General for falsifying and omitting information in the Foreign Intelligence Application warrant against Carter Page. The other signatory on the defensive documents was former Special Agent Peter Strzok.

Strzok was removed from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump Russia and was later fired by the bureau after thousands of anti-Trump texts were discovered between him and his then lover FBI lawyer Lisa Page. The now debunked Russia probe investigation and the investigations looking into the bureau’s malfeasance reveals that the FBI was collecting information directly on Trump for political purposes.

The case ID on the defensive briefing document titled ‘(Redacted) Document Brief to Republican Candidate for U.S. President’ is noted as 97-HQ-2026661 (Redacted) Crossfire Hurricane; Foreign Agents Registration Act – Russia. It was a summary written by FBI Special Agent Joe Pientka, who is still employed by the bureau. Pientka also conducted the briefing with Trump and the officials on the 25th floor of the FBI’s New York Field Office in a classified SCIF.

“(Redacted) Statistically speaking the FBI has approximately (redacted) cases of Known or Suspected Russian IOs posted to the US,” stated Pientka during the briefing.

“We also have approximately (redacted) cases on Known or Suspected Chinese IOs – almost (redacted) the Russian establishment presence,” he told the group that day. No one realized that while Pientka was debriefing them, he was also collecting information on them believing that Flynn, along with Trump, may have been in the pocket of Russia’s intelligence services.

Pientka recalled in the summary that Trump asked the following question, “Joe, are the Russians bad? Because they have more numbers, are they worse than the Chinese?”

Pientka said that he responded with “both countries are bad.”

Flynn appeared to be more concerned about the lack of resources the bureau had and that there wasn’t enough budget or manpower to deal with the growing threat of violent extremists. He asked Pientka, “How many Special Agents are in the FBI?”

Pientka responded that he thought over 10,000 bureau Special Agents. Flynn stated “you have 17,000” showing his knowledge of bureau resources.

“How many HVE (Home Grown Violent Extremists) cases does the FBI have,” asked Flynn, and Pientka responded but that number is redacted from the documents.

Pientka then stated in his summary that Flynn spoke to Trump saying, “See, they don’t have enough resources to work the HVE (Home Grown Violent Extremists) threat and the IOs (Intelligence Officers).”

Flynn then asked Pientka “Is it worse now than during the Cold War?”

Pientka stated in document 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.”

A former federal law enforcement official told this reporter, “It’s interesting that the defensive briefing for a potential president was listed as part of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.”

“It reveals that the bureau went beyond Flynn in collecting information on then candidate Trump,” stated the source, with knowledge of the case. “It’s unbelievable actually and crossed a very dangerous line.”

The once highly classified defensive briefing summary dated August 30, 2016, states: “This communication documents writer’s counter(intelligence)…security briefing to the Republican candidate for U.S. President Donald J. Trump, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and General (retired) Michael Flynn.

It also notes the day the FBI opened the Crossfire Hurricane investigation as July, 31, 2016.

It states that the writer of the document, is Joe Pientka, III, who provided a “counterintelligence and security briefing to U.S. Presidential Candidate Donald J. Trump” along with Flynn and Christie. Pientka is still with the bureau and has never been questioned by Congress. He was with Strzok in January, 2017 at the White House when they went to question then national security advisor Flynn.

“The briefing is standard practice for potential candidates for presidency and their senior advisors,” stated a former FBI Official. “However, spying on a presidential candidate during a briefing isn’t.”

The documents states that “(Redacted) Writer’s brief lasted approximately thirteen minutes, stating at 1555 and ending at 1608,” in military hours.

“Upon entering the room Trump, Christie and Flynn shook hands with all the briefers. Trump, Christie and Flynn sat with their backs to the clocks facing the windows while the briefers sat across from them. An ODNI briefer, Edward Gistaro, initiated the briefing by discussing the history job the briefings and establishing the ground rules regarding the brief, specifically that the briefers would not answer policy related questions and would not discuss any operations,” the document written by Pientka states.

“Gistaro then introduced writer, who approved the following brief (not verbatim, this is a summary):

Good afternoon gentlemen and welcome to the FBI’s New York Field Office. My name is Joe Pientka and I’m a Supervisory Special Agent of a Foreign Counterintelligence Squad at the FBI’s Washington Field Office,” stated Pientka, who went on to introduce himself to the group, stating that his brief would give Trump, along with the team, “a baseline on the methodology used by Foreign Intelligence Services to the detriment of U.S. National Security.”

“In addition, this brief will advise you that if you are not already a target of a Foreign Intelligence Service, due to the fact you are receiving this classified briefing, you will be,” stated Pientka, as disclosed in the document. “Foreign intelligence Services want information pertaining to political, economic, energy, technology and military policy/plans of the U.S. This information is extremely valuable to our trusted allies. Putting it plainly, Foreign Intelligence Services look to collect inside information to give their country a competitive advantage over the U.S.”

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EXCLUSIVE: Former Trump appointee explains an ‘America First Strategy’ in the ME

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Photo: Israeli Government

The author interviewed Ellie Cohanim, one of the authors of the new book: “An America First Approach to US National Security.” Ellie is the former U.S. Deputy Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism under the Trump administration. She is currently a Senior Fellow with the Independent Women’s Forum focusing on Iran, Israel, and global antisemitism, and is a national security contributor for the Christian Broadcasting Network. In 2021, Ellie launched and hosted for Jewish News Syndicate 30 plus episodes of the show “Global Perspectives with Ellie Cohanim.” Ellie spent 15 years in media and NGO management before serving in the public sector. How would you define an “America First” strategy in the Middle East?

Cohanim: An America First strategy in the Middle East would seek to advance American national security interests in that region, while maintaining our status as THE global superpower. To do that, the US would ensure that our principal allies in the region, countries like Saudi Arabia and Israel, are economically and militarily strong, and that our adversaries in the region are deterred.

Postal: How has the United States’ standing in the Middle East differed between the Trump and Biden administrations?

Cohanim: Under President Trump, for four years we had peace, stability and prosperity in the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region. Under President Biden, in just three tumultuous years there has been war in the region, which holds the potential for becoming a regional conflict and even a nuclear confrontation. Meanwhile, the US’ status in the region and the world has diminished due to Biden’s disastrous mishandling of the Afghanistan withdrawal, his emboldening of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and his weak response to Iranian attacks on our personnel and assets in the region. 

 

Postal: Do you think the United States and Israel are/were in a stronger position to deter Iran’s nuclear and territorial ambitions in Biden or Trump’s administration?

Cohanim: America’s position of strength has not changed under either administration vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic of Iran. What has changed is our Iran policy. Under President Trump’s administration, the US contained and constrained Tehran. Trump applied a “Maximum Pressure” sanctions campaign which left the Iranian Regime with only $4 billion in accessible foreign currency reserves by the end of his term, giving the Iranians less cash and less ability to fund their terror proxies and their nuclear program, and Trump eliminated Qassem Soleimani. While all President Biden needed to do was to continue implementing such successful policies, his administration instead did the exact opposite.  Under the Biden administration, Israel, our leading ally in the region, was attacked for the first time directly from Iranian soil. This was an unprecedented escalatory attack by the Iranian regime, and could only happen under the Biden administration.

Postal: In your chapter of the book, you discuss the weakening of US relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia under the Biden administration. How has the Biden administration affected the likelihood of future normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and deals between Israel and other Muslim countries (i.e., new Abraham Accords)?

Cohanim: The good news is that the Abraham Accords have withstood the test of multiple Hamas provocations against Israel, and now the current war. Despite numerous claims from the Biden administration regarding “successful” efforts to normalize ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel, I do not think that the Biden administration will be able to clinch such a deal. In the Middle East, people have a long memory. Saudi Arabia’s de-facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has not forgotten President Biden’s snub when he first came into office, and Biden’s incredibly poorly advised behavior towards the Crown Prince when he made his first visit to the Kingdom as president. The last thing the Crown Prince wants is to hand Biden his first foreign policy success with a Rose Garden peace deal ceremony. So, I do not believe President Biden can broker Saudi/Israeli normalization.

However, I am also convinced that it is a matter of “when” and not “if” such a peace deal will happen between those two countries, as it serves both of their interests to make such a deal. The Saudis understand better than anyone that it is the Islamic Republic of Iran that threatens the Kingdom’s security and stability, not Israel.

Postal: What do you think of the Biden administration’s latest statements withholding arms to Israel?

Cohanim: President Biden will go down in history for his abject moral failure in not standing by Israel while she fights a five-front war. Biden has shown his despicable personality for trying to keep his anti-Israel arms embargo concealed until he could first deliver a speech on the Holocaust. Biden’s behavior is despicable on so many levels.

Ultimately, Biden is betraying the American people. He came into office presenting himself as a “centrist Democrat,” but has proven repeatedly to be beholden to the radical, extremist, pro-Hamas wing of his party.

Postal: How does the Biden administration’s support of a Palestinian state differ from the Trump administration’s support of a Palestinian state under its Peace to Prosperity framework?

Cohanim: The Biden administration stated that they will “unilaterally recognize” a Palestinian state. What the borders of that state are and who would lead it, nobody knows. 

The Trump administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” was a detailed plan that was premised on the realities on the ground in Israel. The plan required that the Palestinians reach benchmarks proving a real desire to live in peace with their Israeli neighbors. It included over $50 billion in investment in the region, which would have been a road to prosperity for all. Perhaps most significantly, the Palestinian state envisioned under the Trump plan would have been demilitarized, the wisdom of which could not be more clear following the October 7 massacre and attack.

The author would like to thank Ellie Cohanim for participating in this interview.

 

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