Hillary Clinton attempted to smear Donald Trump as a Russian asset to distract from her email scandal in 2016, according to a report from the president’s spy chief — and President Barack Obama knew about it.
In a letter Tuesday, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe revealed that the Obama administration was made aware in the summer of 2016 of a plan by Clinton to “stir up a scandal” tying President Trump to Russia, Fox News reported.
Clinton and Crossfire Hurricane
The FBI spied on Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign in an operation known as Crossfire Hurricane, and continued investigating Trump into his presidency over alleged collusion with Russia. Clinton, for her part, was never charged over the email scandal that shadowed her 2016 presidential run.
President Trump and his allies have long complained about a double standard in how the FBI under President Obama treated Trump and Clinton.
While it makes no direct link between the Crossfire probe and Clinton’s alleged aims, a new letter from Ratcliffe to the Senate Judiciary Committee asserts that U.S. intelligence caught wind of Russian intelligence — around the time the Crossfire probe was launched, in July of 2016 — claiming that Clinton wanted to tie Trump to Russian hacks of her emails, apparently in an attempted diversion.
According to Fox News, the letter contends that former CIA chief John Brennan briefed then-President Obama on “alleged approval by Hillary Clinton on July 26, 2016 of a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisors to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by Russian security services.”
It also claims that a referral was made in September 2016 to James Comey and Peter Strzok to investigate Clinton for “candidate Hillary Clinton’s approval of a plan” to “[distract] the public from her use of a private mail server.”
Ratcliffe defends report
Ratcliffe acknowledged in his letter that the intelligence community “does not know the accuracy of this allegation or the extent to which the Russian intelligence analysis may reflect exaggeration or fabrication.”
However, it appears to fuel arguments from the White House and its allies that the Trump–Russia scandal was a set-up by Democrats to undermine Trump. The president’s allies often point to Clinton’s role in funding the debunked Christopher Steele dossier, which played a heavy role in the Trump–Russia probe.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, mentioned those connections Wednesday while questioning Comey, arguing that Ratcliffe’s claims aren’t so “far-fetched,” as Fox reported.
In another ironic twist, it was recently revealed that the FBI was aware that the primary source of the Steele dossier was suspected to be a Russian asset, Fox reported separately.
Democrats have slammed Ratcliffe’s claim as a Russian smear campaign, but he has pushed back. “To be clear, this is not Russian disinformation and has not been assessed as such by the Intelligence Community,” the National Intelligence director said in a statement, according to Fox. “I’ll be briefing Congress on the sensitive sources and methods by which it was obtained in the coming days.”