Along with concluding the Trump campaign did not coordinate with Russia to influence the 2016 election, the House Intelligence Committee report by the Republican majority confirmed that President Obama’s director of national intelligence, James Clapper, leaked information about the dubious anti-Trump “dossier” that ended up being reported by CNN.
It was CNN host Jake Tapper’s report shortly before Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 – followed by the publishing of the full dossier by BuzzFeed – that ignited the fury in Washington over “Trump-Russia collusion” that led to a now-widening special counsel investigation.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said in an interview Wednesday with the Fox News Channel’s “America’s Newsroom” that it apparently was Clapper who leaked information from a Jan. 6, 2017, intelligence briefing that included then-President-elect Donald Trump and President Obama.
“Here is one of the top intelligence people in the government at the time, leaking information to the press,” said Jordan.
Asked what he would say to Democrats charging Republicans are trying to deflect attention from allegations against Trump, Jordan said the “real concern” is alleged abuse by top FBI officials.
“They took an opposition research document and dressed it all up, made it look like legit intelligence and took it to the FISA court to get a warrant to spy on a fellow American citizen,” he said.
“And the guy who leaked information about that dossier is James Clapper.”
Government sources who spoke to investigative reporter Sara Carter said the evidence of the Clapper leak was collected during the Russia investigation by the House Intelligence Committee, which submitted its 150-page draft report for review Tuesday after publishing Monday a one-page summary of its initial findings.
The summary says the investigation found, “Problematic contacts between senior Intelligence Community officials and the media.”
Clapper, Carter noted, was one of four senior Obama administration officials to attend the January 2017 briefing with Trump and Obama.
At the time of the leaks, Clapper issued an official statement expressing his “profound dismay” and warning that the leaks were “extremely corrosive and damaging” to national security.
Giving the dossier ‘legs’
Clapper’s leak is what gave the dossier of “salacious and unverified” material “legs” in the eyes of media, making it “official news” after it had been shopped around to reporters as early as the summer of 2016 by its author, former British spy Christopher Steele, according to a congressional source who spoke to Carter.
The House intel panel found evidence that Clapper, now a contributor at CNN, contacted the news channel shortly before the story was published.
Buzzfeed then followed by posting the entire 35-page dossier Jan. 11, 2017, even though the material had not been verified.
Reacting to criticism, BuzzFeed said the CNN report had a role in its decision to publish the document.
When the Washington Post reported last October that the dossier was financed by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, Clapper dismissed the revelation, insisting “it doesn’t matter who paid for it.”
The “key thing,” he said in an interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett, is “what the dossier said and the extent to which it’s corroborated or not.”
Along with then-FBI Director James Comey’s assessment of dossier contents as “salacious and unverified,” Steele himself has testified under oath that the document is merely a compilation of bits of “raw intelligence” that were “unverified.”
As a defendant in several defamation lawsuits contesting the veracity of the dossier, Steele has downplayed the significance of his findings, noted former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy.
In a lawsuit filed in London by Aleksej Gubarev, whom Steele accused of participating in Russian intelligence hacking, the former British spy explained he passed along the information because it “warranted further investigation,” not because he could vouch for its truthfulness.
Nevertheless, as former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe has testified to Congress, the dossier was essential to the acquisition by FBI and Justice Department officials of the warrant to spy on former Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page.
Truth be told
Clapper’s own veracity was an issue during his service as DNI.
In an April 2017 interview with “Meet the Press,” he unequivocally denied the existence of a FISA court order to wiretap the Trump campaign in 2016.
But in an interview with CNN five months later, he said it was possible that President Trump was recorded as part of the government’s surveillance of Paul Manafort, who served briefly as Trump’s campaign manager.
In the CNN interview, Clapper continued to claim that he wasn’t aware of a FISA warrant against Manafort.
But when asked by CNN host Don Lemon if it was “possible the president was picked up in a conversation with Paul Manafort,” Clapper said, “It’s certainly conceivable.”
“Likely?” pressed Lemon.
“I can’t say. I wouldn’t want to go there. I will say it’s possible,” Clapper said.
A report by the website Mediate pointed out Clapper had made it clear to Lemon that as DNI, he would know of any FISA order to wiretap an American citizen.
That meant that either Clapper wasn’t telling the truth or the order was carried out without his knowledge, which would have been illegal.
Republican lawmakers have urged the Justice Department to prosecute Clapper for falsely testifying during a March 2013 Senate Intelligence Committee hearing that the National Security Agency was “not wittingly” collecting “any type of data at all” on millions of Americans.
The testimony fell apart months later when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed secret court orders forced phone companies to turn over all U.S. call records on an “ongoing, daily basis.”
In January, the lawmakers were urging immediate action, pointing out the five-year statutes of limitation for perjury and making false statements were to expire March 12.
They argued that not prosecuting Clapper would set a dangerous precedent, hindering their ability to oversee federal agencies.
Brennan warns Republicans
Another former Obama intelligence official was in the news this week, responding to the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee’s finding of no collusion.
Former CIA Director John Brennan warned Tuesday via Twitter that Republicans “who try to protect President Trump” will face consequences in the midterm elections this fall.
He wrote: “Leadership of House Intel Committee has traded last vestige of integrity for politics. With other investigative shoes yet to drop, legislators who try to protect @realDonaldTrump will face November reckoning. Hopefully, bipartisan effort in Senate Intel Committee will endure…”
Leadership of House Intel Committee has traded last vestige of integrity for politics. With other investigative shoes yet to drop, legislators who try to protect @realDonaldTrump will face November reckoning. Hopefully, bipartisan effort in Senate Intel Committee will endure…
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) March 13, 2018
Meanwhile, in an interview on “Fox & Friends” Tuesday, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said that while the panel’s investigation found no evidence of Trump-campaign collusion with Russia, it discovered links between Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and Russians.
“We need to get our FBI and our intelligence agencies working on real problems and get them away from what they’re doing now, which is, it looks likes, spinning in circles,” Nunes said.
“We spent 14 months on this investigation, looking for collusion. We didn’t find any.”
Nunes accused the ranking member of the intel panel, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and other Democrats of trying to rewrite history and engage in personal attacks because they have failed to find clear evidence of Trump-Russia collusion.
“They’ve said that numerous times, probably hundreds of times, nearly all of them. Yet they never produce their collusion to our committee. So we have interviewed all these folks. We can’t find any collusion. And that’s where we stand now,” Nunes said.
In a separate investigation, focusing on FISA court abuses by FBI and Justice Department officials, Nunes’ intelligence committee verified that the dossier, based on Russian sources, was funded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
The congressman told Fox News no one seems to care about the “clear links” between the Clinton campaign and Russians.
“The more that you look at this, the more it is pretty obvious that you have one side that plays by one set of rules, and Republicans are held to a different set of standards,” Nunes said.