On Monday, President Trump appeared to call into question a late 2016 U.S. intelligence community assessment that made several claims about Russia’s supposed widespread interference in the 2016 election, causing outrage among the usual suspects in the media and pundits across the political spectrum.
The media has pushed a continuous narrative that the intel assessment is never to be questioned because it obtained, they claim, a unanimous consensus from the entirety of America’s intelligence apparatus.
An Associated Press reporter repeated the “unanimous consensus” narrative Monday afternoon during President Trump’s press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The AP reporter asked:
“President Trump, you first. Just now, President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. My first question for you sir is, who do you believe? My second question is would you now, with the whole world watching, tell President Putin, would you denounce what happened in 2016 and would you want him to never do it again?”
President Trump’s response drew widespread indignation. The president explained that his director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, affirmed Russian interference. But he then added that Putin vehemently denies the charges. Some interpreted this as the president abandoning his own intelligence community and instead taking the word of our Russian adversary over his own analysts.
The president’s comments make much more sense when we break down the events surrounding the controversial 2016 Obama intelligence community assessment.
There are many reasons to be skeptical about the document, which was compiled and produced by the president’s political opponents and relied on shoddy intelligence to come to its conclusions.
In May 2017, former CIA Director John Brennan testified that it was he, former DNI James Clapper, former FBI Director James Comey, and former NSA Director Mike Rogers who put together the final assessment.
The intelligence community assessment, which was published on January 6, 2017, just two weeks before Barack Obama left office, reportedly relied on former British spy Christopher Steele’s dossier, an opposition research document that was funded by President Trump’s political opposition.
In a classified letter to Congress, former National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers reportedly said that the dossier, which former FBI chief James Comey later described as “salacious and unverified,” was used as evidence in a draft appendix of the assessment.
And according to former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, part of the assessment “corroborated” information in the infamous Trump-Russia dossier. However, not a single major allegation in the dossier — which was paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign (and the DNC, which was controlled by the Hillary Clinton campaign) — has been corroborated to this day.
Clapper told CNN’s Erin Burnett in October 2017: “But at the same time, some of the substantive content, not all of it, but some of the substantive content of the dossier, we were able to corroborate in our intelligence community assessment which from other sources in which we had very high confidence to it.”
Clapper also said, “I think with respect to the dossier itself, the key thing is doesn’t matter who paid for it.”
The intel report (which, it’s worth stating again, was published two weeks before Obama left office) took shots at President Trump’s mandate by claiming that the Russians may have given the then president-elect a clear lift.
The assessment claimed that the “Russian government aspired to help President-elect Trump when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.” While Comey’s FBI and Brennan’s CIA expressed “high confidence” in the judgment, Admiral Mike Rogers’ NSA only expressed “moderate confidence.”
Rogers wasn’t sure enough to sign off on the claims with high confidence. So that leaves Brennan, Clapper, and Comey as the three men who crafted the Russia narrative. Since leaving office, all three have become anti-Trump fanatics. And all three played a substantial role in the 2016 government-sanctioned espionage operation against the Trump campaign.
Yesterday, Brennan, who once voted for a presidential candidate controlled by the Soviet Union, accused the president of committing treason. Comey and Clapper, who have immense credibility problems of their own, followed suit.
Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) July 16, 2018
This was the day an American president stood on foreign soil next to a murderous lying thug and refused to back his own country. Patriots need to stand up and reject the behavior of this president.
— James Comey (@Comey) July 16, 2018
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper: "The President of the United States essentially capitulated – and seemed intimidated by Vladimir Putin." @cnn
— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) July 16, 2018
Brennan has in the past taken credit for running what amounted to an unprecedented surveillance operation against candidate Trump. This espionage campaign, which placed confidential informants near the Trump campaign, was headed by Brennan’s CIA and James Comey’s FBI. During this time, Clapper allegedly leaked information about the Steele dossier to the media. The leak seemed designed to damage the president’s credibility, as it gave the media the ammunition it needed to use the “salacious and unverified” dossier as a tool to bludgeon Trump with unsubstantiated and politically funded accusations, none of which have been proven almost two years after the publication of the dossier.
Fast-forward to yesterday’s Trump-Putin summit, and we may now understand why the president has such little confidence in the intelligence community assessment. It remains unclear whether now-DNI Dan Coats relied on the Clapper-Comey-Brennan document to ascertain his “intelligence” or he is using new information to conclude that Russia is meddling in U.S. politics. Nonetheless, the president is right to doubt the intelligence documents produced by people who literally spied on him — and now fashion themselves as members of the anti-Trump resistance.