American intelligence officials have not yet verified the allegation that Hillary Clinton planned a scandal against Trump by linking him to Russia.
During the town hall conducted on Oct 15, President Trump claimed, “Hillary Clinton and the Democrats were dealing with Russia.”
Trump was referring to a Russian intelligence assessment that was declassified by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe on Sept 29, 2020. It contained declassified information about the FBI’s handling of the “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation in 2016 and 2017 into links between Trump associates and Russian officials, as per Associated Press. The letter explained that in July 2016, American intelligence agencies received “insight” into Russian analysis alleging that Clinton, a presidential candidate at the time, had approved plans to create a scandal against Trump by linking him to Putin and the Russians’ hacking of the Democratic National Committee.
Besides several sections of the document being heavily redacted, the letter also acknowledged that “The IC [Intelligence Community] does not know the accuracy of this allegation or the extent to which the Russian intelligence analysis may reflect exaggeration or fabrication.” This indicates that American intelligence officials are yet to ascertain whether the claim is accurate or an exaggeration, or an outright lie.
The allegations that Clinton was behind the FBI probe of Trump also gained traction after it came to light that Clinton had sought the services of British spy Christopher Steele. According to The Washington Post, the Clinton campaign had asked a research firm, Fusion GPS, to investigate whether Russia was trying to influence the campaign, Trump’s personal and business ties to Russia, and any connection between the Trump campaign and Russia. That request led to the hiring of a former British spy, Christopher Steele, who produced a series of reports now known as “the dossier.” Numerous investigations and lawsuits were called into question many of the details of his reports, including his sourcing and methods. After it was released that Clinton’s campaign had funded Steele’s research, long after the dossier was published, Clinton was accused of orchestrating the FBI probe of Trump. In December 2019, the Inspector General of the Department of Justice concluded that “Steele’s reports played no role in the Crossfire Hurricane opening.”
The timing of the declassification of the documents considering that the information is unverified, has led to questions about the move being politically motivated. Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner was quoted by Politico as saying, “It’s very disturbing to me that, 35 days before an election, the director of national intelligence would release unverified Russian rumint.” Several former senior intelligence officials also described Ratcliffe’s move as incendiary and irresponsible, reported Politico.