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Obama, Biden were briefed on Hillary Clinton’s plan to link Trump to Russia

By Sarah May
|
May 20, 2023

The report from special counsel John Durham on the origins of the Russia collusion probe was made public Monday, and it contained damning assessments of the Justice Department and the FBI, also notably revealing that then-President Barack Obama and then-Vice President Joe Biden were, in fact, briefed on Hillary Clinton's plot to smear then-candidate Donald Trump, as the Daily Mail reports.

Durham also noted that Clinton's tactics received far less critical review by federal authorities than the claims leveled at Trump, with the special counsel determining that “neither U.S. law enforcement nor the Intelligence Community appears to have possessed any actual evidence of collusion” on the part of the eventual president when the Crossfire Hurricane probe was launched.

Disparate Treatment Alleged

In his roughly 300-page report, Durham noted that claims brought to authorities by parties ultimately linked to Clinton were never corroborated or verified but were still used as a pretext for launching the far-reaching investigation of her political opponent.

Durham explained, “For example, [an FBI intelligence analyst] stated that he could not recall anything that the FBI did to analyze, or otherwise consider the Clinton Plan intelligence, stating that it was 'just one data point.'”

The report continued, “This stands in sharp contrast to its substantial reliance on the uncorroborated Steele Reports, which at least some FBI personnel appeared to know was likely being funded or promoted by the Clinton campaign.”

That bias, according to Durham, led to an erroneous decision to open a sweeping probe of Trump based on “raw, unanalyzed and uncorroborated intelligence.”

Clinton Plan Escapes Scrutiny

Durham further emphasized that any information that cast doubt on the Clinton-linked claims about Trump – Russia collusion was not pursued, taken seriously or even presented to agents for further examination.

“In late July 2016, U.S. intelligence agencies obtained insight into Russian intelligence analysis alleging that U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had approved a campaign to stir up a scandal against U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump by tying him to Putin and the Russians' hacking of the Democratic National Committee,” the report stated.

Even so, Durham explained, “The [Intelligence Community] [did] not know the accuracy of this allegation or the extent to which the Russian intelligence analysis may reflect exaggeration or fabrication.”

Those knowledge gaps, however, did not stop then-CIA Director John Brennan from informing the White House – including Obama and Biden – of the Clinton campaign's efforts to stir up a scandal involving Trump and an “investigative referral” being dispatched to then-FBI Director James Comey, together with Peter Strzok, then the deputy assistant director of counterintelligence at the agency.

“Surprise and Dismay”

Underscoring Durham's findings about the lack of scrutiny applied to the Clinton-linked claims against Trump, his report further explains that many on the Crossfire Hurricane team at the FBI had never even reviewed the Clinton Plan intelligence prior to being presented with it by the special counsel as part of his investigation, as the Washington Examiner notes.

The report added, “some expressed surprise and dismay upon learning of it,” underscoring the extent to which critical analysis of the allegations was seemingly avoided by those calling the shots in the probe.

“Supervisory Special Agent-1...became visibly upset and emotional, left the interview room with his counsel, and subsequently returned to state emphatically that he had never been apprised of the Clinton Plan intelligence and had never seen the aforementioned Referral Memo,” the report stated.

That agent, the report added, “expressed a sense of betrayal that no one had informed him of the intelligence” and said that “regardless of whether its contents were true, he should have been informed of it.”

“Startling and Inexplicable Failure”

All of these revelations led Durham to conclude that the FBI was wrong not to have considered whether Clinton-linked claims including those contained in the debunked Steele Dossier were actually “part of a political effort to smear a political opponent and to use the resources of the federal government's law enforcement and intelligence agencies in support of a political objective.”

“The aforementioned facts reflect a rather startling and inexplicable failure to adequately consider and incorporate the Clinton Plan intelligence into the FBI's investigative decision making in the Crossfire Hurricane investigation,” Durham opined.

Despite determining that in the end, there was no “provable criminal offense” involved, Durham concluded that the government's handling of the Clinton-backed claims “may have amounted to a significant intelligence failure and a troubling instance in which confirmation bias and a tunnel-vision pursuit of investigative ends may have caused government personnel to fail to appreciate the extent to which uncorroborated reporting funding by an opposing political campaign was intended to influence rather than inform the FBI.”

Less convinced of the lack of criminality involved, however, was Rep. Elise Stefanik (NY-21), who said this week, “Crossfire Hurricane was nothing more than an illegal, unlawful, and un-American abuse of power. I am more committed than ever to ensuring that those involved are held accountable and face criminal prosecution.” Whether that ever comes to pass, however, only time will tell.