The House Intelligence Committee released its long-anticipated and highly redacted Russian intelligence report Friday clearing President Donald Trump’s campaign from “colluding” with Russians in the 2016 presidential election and chiding the intelligence community for “significant intelligence tradecraft failings” as the committee found no evidence to date that collusion had occurred.
The 248-page report, of which some pages were completely redacted after review by FBI and DOJ officials, have raised the ire of committee Republicans and will lead to a review of the report once again in an effort to un-redact elements of the report that the Committee says does not relate to the classified material. Numerous Congressional committees have complained openly that the DOJ and FBI continue to “stonewall” their investigations and have slow rolled documents needed for adequate oversight of the highly controversial investigations into Trump and the Bureau’s handling of former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server for government business.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-CA, said in a press release that due to public interest and the importance of the report the Committee chose to make the report public. Nunes has had to threaten Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray with contempt of Congress before documents have been provided. It’s a battle that he continues to fight but one that has slowed down the progress of the Committee’s investigations, say congressional sources, familiar with the investigations.
Nunes stated in the press release that “we object to the excessive and unjustified number of redactions, many of which do not relate to classified information. The Committee will convey our objections to the appropriate agencies and looks forward to publishing a less redacted version in the near future.”
Three Major Takeaways from the Russia Report’s Findings:
1. Flynn Didn’t Lie
Former National Security Advisor Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the embattled three-star general who was fired by the White House for allegedly misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his conversation with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, did not lie to the FBI special agents who interviewed him at the White House in January 2017.
This is important because Flynn eventually plead guilty to one count of making false statements about his December 2016 phone conversation with Kislyak to DOJ Special Counsel Robert Mueller, “even though the Federal Bureau of Investigation agents did not detect any deception during Flynn’s interview.”
It is odd that Flynn would plead guilty to one count of lying when the agents didn’t believe that he was purposefully misleading them but close friends and associates of Flynn told this reporter that he has been forced to sell his home in northern Virginia in an effort to keep up with mounting legal fees and that he couldn’t afford to keep fighting the Special Counsel.
Even more bizarre is that one of the two agents who conducted the interview was FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok, who is now under investigation himself for sending vehemently anti-Trump text messages to his paramour FBI Attorney Lisa Page, as previously reported. Strzok, who was the former Deputy Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division, was removed from the Special Counsel’s investigation after the DOJ Inspector General uncovered the anti-Trump texts, which also appeared to contain information on the investigations. Strzok was moved to the Human Resources division of the FBI. Both Page and Strzok continue to work with the FBI but are believed to be cooperating with the DOJ investigations, according to sources.
Highly classified Intelligence Leaks
Flynn’s conversation with Kislyak was leaked to columnist David Ignatius with the Washington Post on January, 12. The transcripts of the phone conversation is considered highly classified leak and a violation of federal law. It is currently under investigation and was believed by Republicans to have come from a senior level Obama administration official and considered highly classified.
Flynn was asked by a Presidential Transition Team member to contact foreign governments
Moreover, according to the report, the “on or about December 22, 2016, ‘a very senior member of the Presidential Transition Team’ (PTI) directed General Flynn to contact representatives of foreign governments. This request concerned a resolution about Israeli settlements submitted by Egypt to the U.N. Security Council around December 21, 2016. Later, on December 22, General Flynn contacted Ambassador Kislyak and ‘requested that Russia vote against or delay the resolution.’ The next day, Ambassador Kislyak informed General Flynn that Russia would not comply On December 29, 2016, President Obama ‘authorized a number of actions’ – including new sanctions-‘in response to the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber operations aimed at the U.S. election in 2016.’
After the sanction was placed on Russia at the end of the Obama administration the report found that Gen. Flynn had discussed with a senior transition team member “what, if anything, to communicate to the Russian Ambassador about the U.S. sanctions.”
Comey walks back on Flynn
Even former FBI Director James Comey, who was fired by President Trump last year, had apparently told Congress that the agents did not believe Flynn had lied. Although, in recent interviews to promote his book A Higher Loyalty, Comey is saying now that he has no recollection of what the agents may or may not have thought. His statements contradict the findings of the Russia report and previous stories that suggest he knew the agents did not believe Flynn lied to them.
The Russia report, however, is highly redacted and it appears by reading the report that there was more information on Flynn that has yet to be made public. If it is eventually redacted we may have more answers than questions on what Flynn did and possibly what Comey knew.
2. Clapper Leaked the Dossier To Numerous Reporters
In early March, I reported that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper may have leaked information to CNN regarding the classified briefings given to then president-elect Trump on former British spy Christopher Steele’s dossier, which claimed the Russians had compromising information on the president-elect.
Clapper’s role became more apparent when the Comey’s memos about his interactions with Trump were released to the public. In the memos, Comey admits that it was Clapper who asked him to brief Trump on the dossier and Comey has repeated that in a number of interviews over the past several weeks. He also noted that he told Trump that CNN and other news outlets had the dossier and were looking for a “news hook.”
“I said there was something that Clapper wanted me to speak to the [President-elect] about alone or in a very small group,” Comey said.
In an interview with Fox News Bret Baier, Comey discusses briefing the President on the more salacious parts of the dossier.
BAIER: The intel briefing at Trump Tower. You briefed the president-elect on the sliver of the dossier, really the salacious part about the prostitutes in Moscow and that allegation.
BAIER: Didn’t include anything broader than that, right?
COMEY: Correct. My mission in that private briefing was just to tell him about that slice of it.
Russia report evidence on Clapper
The Russia report discovered that Clapper, who is now a CNN national security analyst, “provided inconsistent testimony to the Committee about his contacts with the media, including CNN.”
They noted that when Clapper was initially asked about leaks related to the dossier in July 2017, Clapper denied “discussing the dossier compiled by Steele or any other intelligence related to Russia hacking of the 2016 election with journalists.”
But according to the report, Clapper eventually acknowledged discussing the “dossier with CNN journalist Jake Tapper.” He also admitted that he may have told other journalists about the dossier.
“Clapper’s discussion with Tapper took place in early January 2017, around the time IC leaders briefed President Obama and President-elect Trump, on ‘the Christopher Steele information,’ a two-page summary of which was ‘enclosed in’ the highly-classified version of the ICA,” the Russia report states.
On Jan. 10, 2017, Tapper published an article on CNN’s Tapper referring to the briefing and the classified documents. It noted that the “classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations…about Mr. Trump that was included in a two-page synopsis . . . appended to a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.” It also mentioned that it was “derived from memos compiled by a former British intelligence analyst operative.”
Those claims were sourced to “multiple U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the briefings. The next day, Clapper issued a statement describing a call with President-elect Trump in which Clapper “expressed my profound-dismay at the leaks that have been appearing the in the press.”
After CNN published the briefing, Buzzfeed then published the dossier and the Russia collusion story was well underway, according to the report and numerous congressional officials.
3. Former Feinstein Staffer Continues Where Fusion GPS Left Off
Last but not least, as first reported by Sean Davis with The Federalist, a former staff member for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, is helping direct a continued investigation into President Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia.
The Fusion GPS investigation, which was paid by the Hillary Clinton Campaign and DNC, is being picked up by Daniel J. Jones, a former Feinstein staffer. According to Davis, the former staffer “is intimately involved with ongoing efforts to retroactively validate a series of salacious and unverified memos produced by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence agent, and Fusion GPS.”
Jone’s name appears to be redacted in the Russia report but his company, “Penn Quarter Group” is mentioned in its continuing efforts to investigate Trump and apparently they have raised $50 million to continue the investigation, according to a more detailed story by the Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross.
Davis noted that congressional documents and texts leaked between Sen. Mark Warner,D-Va. and Oleg Daripaska, a registered foreign agent for a Russian aluminum oligarch “indicate that Daniel J. Jones is intimately involved with ongoing efforts to retroactively validate a series of salacious and unverified memos produced by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence agent, and Fusion GPS. The dossier, which declassified documents show was used as a basis for securing secret wiretaps on Trump campaign affiliates, was reportedly jointly funded by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.”