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CIA Director John Brennan briefed former President Obama on Hillary Clinton’s purported “plan” to tie then-candidate Donald Trump to Russia

The president declassified intelligence documents meant to implicate Clinton in 2016 meddling. Officials say they're misleading and heavily redacted.

The president declassified intelligence documents meant to implicate Clinton in 2016 meddling. Officials say they're misleading and heavily redacted.Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe on Oct. 6 declassified documents related to the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections. The documents include a note from former CIA Director John Brennan to former President Barack Obama. Ratcliffe claims that the notes show that Brennan briefed former President Obama on Hillary Clinton’s alleged “plan” to tie then-candidate Donald Trump to Russia as “a means of distracting the public from her use of a private email server” ahead of the 2016 presidential election. In a statement to CNN, Ratcliffe said he declassified the documents at "the direction of President Trump."

Politico reports that Brenna's notes to Obama are heavily redacted. The notes describe intelligence reports that were drawn from Russian operatives. In the readable, unredacted portion of Brennan’s notes, first published by Fox News, he wrote: “We’re getting additional insight into Russian activities from [REDACTED].” In another section, the notes describe an alleged plan “approved by Hillary Clinton, a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisers to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by the Russian security service.” In a second note, also heavily redacted document, shows a summary of the intelligence the CIA prepared for the FBI, describes “an exchange” between unknown individuals regarding “Hillary Clinton’s approval of a plan concerning US Presidential Candidate Donald Trump and Russian hackers hampering US elections as a means of distracting the public from the use of her private email server.” Ratcliffe's release suggested that the Russian intelligence indicated that attributing 2016 interference to Russia was part of a Clinton plot to stir up a scandal against Trump. And many Trump allies have deployed the new evidence to declare that Democrats cooked up the entire scandal.

Four people familiar with the matter said the Russians’ assessment of Clinton was only one part of a larger intelligence report billed as an initial examination of Russian cyberattacks targeting the 2016 election and was not the reason it was referred to the bureau. The people all described Ratcliffe as “cherry-picking” portions of the intelligence to tarnish Trump’s political enemies. Other officials say they believe that the intelligence could be Russia’s analysis of American politics, suggesting not a plot by the Clinton campaign to stir a scandal but a legitimate political critique of the Trump campaign’s stance toward Russia, reported the New York Times.

Reacting to the news, Brennan accused Ratcliffe of selectively declassifying documents ahead of the November election that benefits President Donald Trump. He told CNN that the decision to release materials gathered by the agency on Russian allegations that Hillary Clinton was planning on "stirring up a scandal" against her Republican rival in 2016 was motivated by politics.

The former CIA director also said Ratcliffe's declassification of a heavily redacted CIA memo related to the investigative referral forwarded to the FBI at the time. The memo notes that the Russians allege Clinton's effort to stir up a scandal was "a means of distracting the public from her use of a private email server."

It also comes in the middle of an ongoing investigation by US Attorney John Durham, who was tasked by the Justice Department with probing the intelligence community’s findings. Durham is expected to refrain from releasing any conclusions before Election Day to avoid affecting the race, but the recent declassifications by both Ratcliffe and Attorney General William Barr appear to be an effort to fill that void.

Ratcliffe’s declassifications are based on some chatter by Russian intelligence officers picked up by the US intelligence community in 2016. The intelligence, Ratcliffe indicated in a letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), suggested that the Russians believed Clinton authorized a campaign strategy to tie Trump to Russia’s intelligence services their operation to undermine Democrats in 2016. Ratcliffe further told Graham, who is investigating the origins of the FBI’s Russia probe, that the intelligence community had referred the Russian chatter to the bureau for further investigation in 2016. The letter also specifies that the US agencies did "not know the accuracy" of the allegation, nor whether the Russian analysis reflected "exaggeration or fabrication."

New York Times reported that according to three current and former officials familiar with those inquiries — including Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee — had earlier evaluated and rejected it.

Right before this, Attorney General William P. Barr provided Graham with declassified documents that tried to further cast doubt on aspects of the FBI’s Russia’s investigation. Former FBI and Justice Department officials said the selective declassification appeared to be part of a pattern of politically motivated steps by Barr to bolster Trump’s allegations about the inquiry, reported NYT.

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