Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe created a new category of news last week – the ho-hum smoking gun – when he released a letter regarding the Clinton campaign’s efforts to generate the Trump/Russia hoax during the 2016 election.
In three short paragraphs addressed to Sen. Lindsey Graham, Ratcliffe revealed that U.S. intelligence officials had learned in late July 2016 that the Russians believed Clinton “had approved a campaign plan 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.”
Ratcliffe reported that former CIA Director John Brennan considered the information important enough to share with President Obama and other senior national security officials. In addition, on Sept. 7, 2016, U.S. intelligence officials forwarded an investigative referral to then-FBI Director James Comey regarding "U.S. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's approval of a plan concerning U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian hackers hampering U.S. elections as a means of distracting the public from her use of a private mail server."
The information is ho-hum because it tells us what already we know. By the spring of 2016 the Clinton campaign had hired the opposition research firm Fusion GPS and its agent, Christopher Steele, to dig up dirt on Trump’s alleged Russia connections. Steele's fishing expedition in Russian waters makes it reasonable to embrace the Ratcliffe letter’s main claim: that the Kremlin knew what the Clinton campaign was up to in July 2016 – and so, too, did U.S. intelligence.
And yet, the letter is also a smoking gun because it shows how Obama administration officials willfully ignored all evidence to the contrary in their relentless pursuit of Trump. Even though Brennan had information that Clinton was intent on blaming Trump for the hacking as a campaign ploy, he became one of the prime architects of the Trump/Russia conspiracy theory.
Same goes for Jim Comey. Stunningly, at his Senate hearing last week, Comey claimed he had no recollection of the U.S. intelligence referral that combined the bureau’s two most significant probes of 2016: Clinton’s emails and Trump’s supposed Russia connections.
Brennan and Comey’s malfeasance is especially troubling given that the information they ignored about Clinton was true while the disinformation they embraced about Trump turned out to be false. At a minimum, they should have been on high alert about any Trump-related material coming from the Clinton campaign. Brennan, instead, insisted that the Steele dossier be included in the Obama administration’s late 2016 Intelligence Community Assessment of Russian interference – and then lied about it.
Related: Trump Orders Release of All Russia Collusion, Clinton Probe Files Fox
Related: Brennan Memo Out on Alleged Hillary Russiagate Hoax Federalist
For his part, Comey signed FISA court applications that used the Steele dossier to justify spying on Carter Page and, by extension, the Trump campaign.
The mainstream media was also a prime mover of the Russiagate hoax, and its coverage of the Ratcliffe letter reveals once more how it has used anonymous sources and misleading language to diminish facts that challenged that narrative. Politico reported that the Senate Intelligence Committee “was made aware of that allegation early on in its investigation, and quickly dismissed it, the sources said.”
The New York Times went further, reporting that the Senate committee and Special Counsel Robert Mueller “had evaluated and rejected the information in the years since, according to three current and former officials familiar with those inquiries.”
Neither publication, however, showed any curiosity about how and why a report that made it to President Obama and was the subject of an intelligence referral to the FBI was rejected. For that matter, the outlets didn’t seem to press their anonymous sources to explain how the Senate and Mueller’s office were even able to independently “evaluate” highly classified intelligence – which the intelligence community, according to Ratcliffe, has not dismissed.
Instead of exploring the issues raised, the publications and their anonymous sources are trying to shut down any inquiry through a deceptive leap of logic. They are using one aspect of the intelligence that has not been verified – that Clinton herself personally approved the anti-Trump effort – to invalidate the broader point that her campaign originated the Russiagate smear.
This is the same approach they have used regarding Hunter Biden’s efforts to cash in on his father’s name. Obvious ethical questions about egregious conflicts of interest are sidestepped by narrowly defining the issue as whether there’s direct evidence that Joe Biden changed policy to enrich his son.
This deception is especially brazen in the Clinton campaign’s case because its pivotal role in Russiagate is long established and beyond dispute. As such, it seems part of a larger strategy to take every opportunity to fog the air and muddy the waters so the public doesn’t know what to think – a win for wrongdoers.
A final thought. Many of those horrified and disgusted by the Trump/Russia hoax have long been in “Iceman Cometh” mode, hoping tomorrow will deliver that last piece of evidence that convinces even Democrats to hold the wrongdoers accountable.
That day will never come. The Ratcliffe letter is the latest in a long line of smoking guns – including reports from the special counsel, the DoJ inspector general as well as dogged journalists – that have established beyond any doubt that the vast powers of our government were weaponized and politicized to destroy a candidate and then a president.
The crime is as clear as the fact that they got away with it.
J. Peder Zane is an editor for RealClearInvestigations and a columnist for RealClearPolitics.