It is not coincidental the origin of all ‘vast-Russian-conspiracy‘ stories seem to start with a discussion of intelligence gathering beginning in July of 2016. The GOP convention to nominate Donald Trump was July 18-21st of 2016.
Surrounding the nomination that stunned the geo-political world almost every foreign government was trying to figure out who and what Donald J Trump was all about; and more specifically: how would his run for the presidency impact their specific interests.
WASHINGTON NYT — American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers, according to three current and former American officials familiar with the intelligence.
[Paragraph #5] The information collected last summer was considered credible enough for intelligence agencies to pass to the F.B.I., which during that period opened a counterintelligence investigation that is continuing. It is unclear, however, whether Russian officials actually tried to directly influence Mr. Manafort and Mr. Flynn. Both have denied any collusion with the Russian government on the campaign to disrupt the election. (link)
The New York Times should win a Pulitzer for undermining their own ‘Russian Conspiracy’ headline narrative within the fifth paragraph. [It’s a current trend] I digress.
Obviously Russia would be asking these questions along with China, France, England, the larger EU and every nation in every continent. It would be silly to claim otherwise.
Ergo a diplomatic mission by Russian governmental officials surrounding the GOP convention to understand the Trump orbit is no different than a Chinese, European or Arab-Asian effort for the same reason.
However, what the international interest did necessarily initiate was a bunch of foreign officials making contact with anyone and everyone who would be associated with Trump-world regardless of concentric circle distance from the epicenter.
That intellectually honest understanding highlights how the origin of the July 2016 raw intelligence gathering began so easily.
The CIA simply monitoring chatter amid foreign diplomats, their customary job, turns into raw data provided to the FBI which in turn becomes frequent FISA warrants to explore the U.S. contacts on the other side of that chatter.
The FISA warrants turn into intelligence reports and that begins the entire process now known as “unmasking” etc. Nothing within this process so far is even in question. This is the accurate backdrop for the origin of intelligence reports used as political weapons. This week CIA Director John Brennan testified to this exact process before congress.
However, what is not reported by any media outline is John Brennan, understanding the potential legal risk looming on the horizon, also completely backed toward the exit and threw James Comey in front of the rapidly approaching sunlight.
Former CIA Director John Brennan gave very specific testimony to congress where he noted he provided the raw intelligence to FBI Director Comey – FULLSTOP. Where “fullstop” directly and immediately indicates Brennan’s throwing the responsibility for all that came next upon FBI Director James Comey.
John Brennan did the ‘outta-here-like-a-fat-kid-playing-dodge-ball routine‘ with great specificity:
“Again, in consultation with the White House, I PERSONALLY briefed the full details of our understanding of Russian attempts to interfere in the election to congressional leadership; specifically: Senators Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, Dianne Feinstein and Richard Burr; and to representatives Paul Ryan, Nancy Pelosi, Devin Nunes and Adam Schiff between 11th August and 6th September , I provided the same briefing to each of the gang of eight members.”
“Given the highly sensitive nature of what was an active counter-intelligence case [that means the FBI], involving an ongoing Russian effort, to interfere in our presidential election, the full details of what we knew at the time were shared only with those members of congress; each of whom was accompanied by one senior staff member.”… (link)
Shorter version: don’t try pinning this investigation to no-where, and the illegal leaks, on me; I just provided the raw intelligence.
It is important to emphasize here the possibly illegal “unmasking“, and the certainly illegal “leaking“, were all based on intelligence reports generated from raw intelligence, and not the raw intelligence itself.
It was the FBI (Comey) and ODNI (Clapper) generating the intel reports, including the Presidents’ Daily Briefing (PDB).
The CIA provided raw intel, and the NSA generated the raw monitoring intelligence from the characters identified by the CIA and approved by FBI FISA warrant submissions.
The FBI were running the counter-intelligence operation and generating the actual reports that were eventually shared with the White House, Susan Rice and the Dept of Justice. Those reports, or interpretations of the report content, was eventually leaked to the media.
During the time James Comey’s FBI was generating the intelligence reports, Comey admitted he intentionally never informed congressional oversight: “because of the sensitivity of the matter“.
John Brennan has effectively (and intentionally) taken himself out of the picture from the perspective of the illegal acts within the entire process. James Clapper while rubbing his face and scratching his head had taken the same route earlier. That leaves James Comey.
The answer to that question explains why Comey changed his mind on testifying to congress before talking to newly appointed special counsel Robert Mueller.
Former FBI Director James Comey is not stupid and is intensely political. Comey understands the legal risks he is facing within the faux “Russian conspiracy story” and the “subsequent leaking” of his political FBI reports.
James Clapper (DNI) and John Brennan (CIA) have essentially left Comey holding the bag of nothing-burgers while standing on the hot coals of possibly: A) illegal leaking; and B.) unethical unmasking; and C.) illegal use of investigative resources for political objectives – All three stemming from activity within his FBI counter-intelligence investigation.
If the entire fiasco blows up, does Comey anticipate the Trump DOJ taking legal action against him?
If yes, can Comey leverage the nothing-burgers into plausible claims of investigative interference by President Trump in order to generate a get-out-of-jail card for himself?
Beside the media, who will help him in that regard?
*Additionally, smart move by POTUS on delaying the nomination of the FBI Director. Comey would love to know that answer before he gives his story.