The CIA inspector general has taken more than a year to clear the release of a House Intelligence Committee report that contradicts the key conclusion of the intelligence community’s assessment of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to the former chief of staff of the National Security Council.
The January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA), prepared at the behest of President Barack Obama, claimed that Russia interfered in the presidential election in order to help candidate Donald Trump. The House Intelligence Committee’s public report (pdf) on Russia had already challenged the analytic tradecraft behind this central claim and suggested that the process of arriving at the assessment wasn’t free of political interference.
A separate, classified report holed up at the Office of the CIA Inspector General (IG) sheds damning light on the role then-CIA Director John Brennan played in the preparation of the report, former National Security Council Chief of Staff Fred Fleitz learned from House Intelligence Committee staff. A source familiar with the report’s fate would not deny that the report went to the office of the CIA IG.
The report states that Brennan overruled agency analysts who wanted to include strong intelligence in the assessment to show that Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted Hillary Clinton to win the election, Fleitz says, citing conversations with House Intelligence Committee staffers. Brennan had also rejected analysts who wanted to strike weak intelligence from the report that suggested that Russia favored Trump, Fleitz said.
“So Brennan actually slanted this analysis, choosing anti-Trump intelligence and excluding anti-Clinton intelligence,” Fleitz told The Epoch Times.
Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee issued the report in August 2018 and submitted it to the CIA IG in the fall of 2018 to be cleared for public release, according to Fleitz. The former NSC chief of staff says that only the limited circle of GOP members on the intelligence committee had read the report.
In the section of the House Intelligence Committee’s public Russia report, which challenged the analytic tradecraft underlying the assessment that Russia favored Trump, the committee stated that it was “planning additional action regarding this information in early spring 2018.” A source familiar with the report told The Epoch Times, “We did do a classified report on the ICA.”
The existence of the House report on the ICA, which hasn’t been previously reported, comes to light less than one month after newly declassified documents revealed that the FBI was aware that a key part of the infamous Steele dossier could have been the product of disinformation by Russian intelligence services. The dossier—a compilation of unverified allegations against Trump—played a key role in the FBI’s decision to obtain a surveillance warrant to spy on Trump campaign associate Carter Page. The Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee funded the dossier.
A summary of the dossier was included in a top-secret attachment to the ICA—Annex A. The FBI pushed to include the dossier in the ICA, according to a Senate intelligence committee report (pdf) on the assessment released last month. The FBI told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) that they “would have had a major problem if Annex A had not been included.” Former FBI Director James Comey told the SSCI that he personally insisted that the dossier be included.
“I insisted that we bring it to the party, and I was agnostic as to whether it was footnoted in the document itself, put as an annex,” Comey told SSCI. “I have some recollection of talking to John Brennan, maybe at some point saying: I don’t really care, but I think it is relevant and so ought to be part of the consideration.”
The Senate report’s conclusions about the ICA clash with those reportedly in the classified House report. The SSCI found no issues with the process that led to the issuance of the ICA and found no witnesses to support the claim that the process was politicized.
“Every witness interviewed by the Committee stated that he or she saw no attempts or pressure to politicize the findings,” the SSCI report states.
The CIA IG office is currently led by acting Inspector General Christopher Sharpley, a holdover from the Obama administration who was reappointed by President Donald Trump. Sharpley withdrew his nomination after allegations surfaced that he misled the Senate about his awareness of whistleblower reprisal complaints against him.
Fleitz said he had personally reached out to acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell about releasing the House report. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence didn’t respond to a request for comment.