Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, President Trump questioned via Twitter last weekend why his campaign wasn’t warned about the Russians attempting to infiltrate his campaign.
With Spies, or “Informants” as the Democrats like to call them because it sounds less sinister (but it’s not), all over my campaign, even from a very early date, why didn’t the crooked highest levels of the FBI or “Justice” contact me to tell me of the phony Russia problem?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2018
On Thursday, Trump quoted Rush Limbaugh’s comments about the FBI not warning the Trump campaign or trying to stop the Russian infiltration.
RUSH LIMBAUGH “If the FBI was so concerned, and if they weren’t targeting Trump, they should have told Trump. If they were really concerned about the Russians infiltrating a campaign (hoax), then why not try to stop it? Why not tell Trump? Because they were pushing this scam.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 31, 2018
President Trump is making these claims in spite of the fact that he was briefed by the FBI in 2016 on the situation and specifically warned that Russia would try to infiltrate or spy on his campaign. On May 27, James Clapper, then Director of National Intelligence, confirmed on CBS “Face the Nation” that both presidential candidates were briefed on the Russia threat in 2016.
NBC reported on December 19, 2017 on the intelligence briefing given to both candidates.
The warning came in the form of a high-level counterintelligence briefing by senior FBI officials, the officials said. A similar briefing was given to Hillary Clinton, they added. They said the briefings, which are commonly provided to presidential nominees, were designed to educate the candidates and their top aides about potential threats from foreign spies.
The candidates were urged to alert the FBI about any suspicious overtures to their campaigns, the officials said.
CNN reports that the briefing was given to Trump on August 17, 2016.
The security briefing included information about potential interference by foreign actors, including Russia, according to sources familiar with a memo that detailed the August 2016 briefing. In October 2017, senior Justice Department officials gave lawmakers from both parties a readout on the 2016 briefing after Republicans demanded to see documents about the Russia investigation and related matters.
“I notice, anytime anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians are — [Hillary Clinton] doesn’t know if it’s the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hacking,” Trump told moderator Martha Raddatz of ABC News. “But they always blame Russia. And the reason they blame Russia because they think they’re trying to tarnish me with Russia. I know nothing about Russia.”
“The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations.”
The statement added, “We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”
NBC News, on September 29, 2016, stated that classified materials used in the briefing, which was prepared by the office of James Clapper, former director of national intelligence, linked Putin and the hacks.
Meanwhile, intelligence officials tell NBC News there is now “no doubt” the Russian government is trying to influence the election.
Classified material, prepared for briefings of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and examined by NBC News, reveals that officials have drawn “direct links” between Vladimir Putin’s government and the recent series of hacks and leaks.
In that October 2017 NBC report, an intelligence official made clear that Donald Trump’s statement in the debate was not based on fact.
A senior U.S. intelligence official assured NBC News that cybersecurity and the Russian government’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 election have been briefed to, and discussed extensively with, both parties’ candidates, surrogates and leadership, since mid-August. “To profess not to know at this point is willful misrepresentation,” said the official. “The intelligence community has walked a very thin line in not taking sides, but both candidates have all the information they need to be crystal clear.”
A CNN law enforcement analyst explains both the purpose of the intelligence briefings for candidates and the unique nature of warning a campaign about Russia while investigating persons in that campaign for their suspicious activities with Russia.
The purpose of these defensive briefings is to ensure that both campaigns know the threats from foreign intelligence services, and have the tools to protect themselves, according to CNN law enforcement analyst Josh Campbell.
With Trump, the situation was unique because the FBI was conducting a counterintelligence investigation into his campaign while it was warning him about Russia.
“They likely would not be so specific as to outline the things they are seeing, because they don’t want to blow their investigation,” Campbell said. “But it is incumbent upon the intelligence community to provide both candidates with a baseline level of what the threat is and how to protect against those threats.”
These initial briefings are meant to establish a working relationship, and officials from both campaigns would likely be told to reach out to the FBI if they sensed anything suspicious, Campbell added.
Four individuals close to the Trump campaign have been indicted thus far in the Russia investigation. Three have pleaded guilty and the fourth, Paul Manafort, will be on trial in July.
Why It Matters
That August 2016 briefing came just weeks after the Trump Tower Meeting, arranged by the Agalarovs for the purpose of passing along sensitive and damaging information from the Russian Crown Prosecutor to the Trump Campaign. That meeting was attended by Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort and Natalia Veselnitskaya, the lawyer who now admits she is Russian informant. The Trump team not only did not inform the FBI of the meeting or its purpose at the time or in August at the intelligence briefing, but it misled the public in a series of changing statements that came after the meeting was discovered by the media in July 2017.
Donald Trump’s position that he was not warned about Russia infiltrating his campaign or informed that Russia had hacked the DNC , was meddling in the election, and had probed the voting infrastructure of numerous states flies in the face of reality. Either he did not absorb the information he was given by the intelligence community while a candidate or he did and is lying now. The reader can decide which is the likely explanation.