Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper allegedly leaked information to CNN early last year regarding the classified briefings given to then President-Elect Donald Trump and President Barack Obama on the salacious dossier claiming the Russians had compromising information on the president-elect, according to government sources, who noted the evidence of the leak was collected during the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation.
Clapper, who was one of four senior Obama administration officials to attend the briefing with the presidents, also stated his “profound dismay at the leaks” in an official statement issued in January, 2017 and warned that the leaks were “extremely corrosive and damaging” to national security, according to his press release.
Texas Republican Mike Conaway, R-Texas, announced Monday in a press release, that the committee found no evidence of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. The Republican members released only a portion of the committee’s findings in the late afternoon. The full report will undergo a review to ensure that it does not reveal or damage national security before its public release, congressional sources added. The committee interviewed its final witness former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski last week and had accessed all documents related to its probe, a congressional source told this reporter.
“We’ve interviewed all the folks we needed too,” Conaway told Fox News Monday. “We could find no evidence of collusion between either campaign and the Russians.”
Conaway said the committee did, however, find evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election. A one. page assessment of the findings stated that the “draft report will be provided to the Committee minority on March 13 for review and comment. After adoption it will be submitted for a declassification review, and a declassified version will be made public.”
Since the start of the House Intelligence Committee investigation “the Committee majority and minority agreed to four parameters for this investigation, covering Russian active measures directed against the 2016 election and against our European allies, the U.S. Government’s response to those attacks, links between Russians and the Trump and Clinton campaigns, and leaks of classified information.”
“After conducting 73 witness interviews, holding nine hearings and briefings, and reviewing over 300,000 documents, we are confident that we have thoroughly investigated the agreed-upon parameters, and developed reliable initial findings and recommendations,” he said. “We will now be moving into the next phase of this investigation, working with the minority on a report to give the American people answers to the questions they’ve been asking for over a year.”
Conaway said that with the2018 primary elections already underway, “just 238 days until the mid-term elections in November, it’s important that we give the American people the information they need to arm themselves against Russian attempts to influence our elections.”
But according to government sources Clapper, who is not mentioned in the report released Monday, had spoken to CNN at roughly the same time Jake Tapper broke the first story regarding the briefings conducted by senior intelligence officials with Trump and Obama on the dossier. Tapper’s story, which published in January 2017, created a snowball effect of allegations in the media that Trump’s campaign had allegedly colluded with the Russians in the 2016 election and that Russia had compromising material on Trump, sources with knowledge of the investigation concluded.
Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan, former FBI Director James Comey and National Security Advisor Mike Rogers agreed to brief both Obama and Trump on the dossier in early January 2017. Comey briefed Trump, sharing a two-page summary with him of the contents of the dossier.
Clapper nor Tapper could be immediately reached for comment.
The dossier, which was compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, at the behest of embattled research firm Fusion GPS, was already being shopped around by Steele to journalists in Washington as early as the summer of 2016, according to reports. At the time, journalists who had heard of the dossier were reluctant to publish the findings because of its unverified content.
“[Clapper] gave the dossier legs and news agencies began to publish its contents because it had now become official news…”
But it was when CNN published the first report that Trump and Obama had been briefed the dossier’s findings that other news agencies began to report on it. The committee found evidence that Clapper, who is now a contributor at CNN, contacted CNN shortly before the story was published by Tapper, Evan Perez, and Jim Sciutto. The story detailed the briefings given to Trump by the senior officials on the contents of the dossier and “gave the dossier legs and news agencies began to publish its contents because it had now become official news,” one congressional source told this reporter. Shortly after CNN published the report, Buzzfeed made the decision to post the entire 35-page dossier and referenced the CNN report in its decision to publish it, according to the website.
On Jan. 11, Clapper issued a press release stating that the leaks in the media regarding the briefing on the dossier were “extremely corrosive and damaging to national security.”
“I expressed my profound dismay at the leaks that have been appearing in the press, and we both agreed that they are extremely corrosive and damaging to our national security,” he stated. “We also discussed the private security company document, which was widely circulated in recent months among the media, members of Congress and Congressional staff even before the IC became aware of it. I emphasized that this document is not a U.S. Intelligence Community product and that I do not believe the leaks came from within the IC.”
“The IC has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable, and we did not rely upon it in any way for our conclusions,” Clapper stated. “However, part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security.”
CNN was the first to report that the Russians allegedly had “compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump.”
CNN also reported that the findings were compiled by a credible former British spy and that the FBI was investigating the allegations. The official sources also told CNN that one reason they wanted to brief Trump on the unverified information is that it had been circulating among the media.
At a Senate Intelligence hearing on June 8, 2017, after Comey was fired, the former FBI director told Sen. Susan Collin’s under questioning on Jan. 6, 2017 he wanted then President-elect Trump to know “I was briefing him about the salacious and unverified material. It was in a context of that that he had a strong and defensive reaction about that not being true. My reading of it was it was important for me to assure him we were not person investigating him.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-CA, had battled both Democrats and the Department of Justice over the past year in an effort to obtain documents for the Russia phase of the investigation, according to previous reports. The Democrats in the House Intelligence Committee are expected to release their own findings in the upcoming weeks, which will not be as conclusive and will suggest more investigations are needed into alleged collusion with the Russia, according to reports.
This story was updated to include statements issued by Rep. Conaway and the one-page assessment of the committee’s findings.