The Trump campaign is calling on Democratic nominee Joe Biden to disclose what, if anything, he knew about an alleged scheme on the part of presidential contender Hillary Clinton to tie then-candidate Trump to Russia ahead of the 2016 election.
Tim Murtaugh, Trump 2020 communications director said in a statement that in light of recent revelations of an alleged plan on the part of Clinton “to divert attention away from her use of a private email server by falsely tying then-candidate Donald Trump to Russia,” voters must be informed about whether Biden was aware of the alleged scheme and, if so, how he reacted.
“It is imperative that the American people now learn what then-Vice President Joe Biden knew about this conspiracy and when he knew it. What did Biden know about Clinton’s plan to use the Russia Hoax to try to smear her political opponent? Did Biden condone the plan? Did he express any misgivings about it or remain silent? Biden must give a full accounting of his knowledge and his conversations about Clinton’s scheme, which was known to the highest reaches of his administration,” Murtaugh wrote.
The Biden campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Clinton, who lists only a postal box as a means of contact on her website, didn’t respond to an earlier request for comment addressed to her on Twitter by The Epoch Times.
The purported scheme, first revealed in a Sept. 29 letter (pdf) from Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), rests on the claim that a Russian intelligence analysis obtained by U.S. intelligence found that Clinton approved a campaign plan to stir up a scandal against Trump “by tying him to Putin and the Russians’ hacking of the Democratic National Committee.” Ratcliffe’s letter contains the caveat that U.S. intelligence “does not know the accuracy of this allegation or the extent to which Russian intelligence analysis may reflect exaggeration or fabrication.”
The letter also makes reference to former CIA director John Brennan’s handwritten notes, which Ratcliffe declassified on Tuesday, which show that Brennan briefed then-President Barack Obama on U.S. intelligence reporting that Russian operatives claimed Clinton devised a plan “to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference” by Russia in the 2016 election.
“We’re getting additional insight into Russian activities from [REDACTED],” Brennan wrote, according to the notes, which were first reported on by Fox News. The notes also detailed a purported plan that Clinton’s foreign policy adviser allegedly concocted “to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by the Russian security service.”
Newly declassified documents by Ratcliffe also include a CIA memo reportedly showing that officials referred the matter to the FBI for potential investigation.
In his Sept. 29 letter, Ratcliffe wrote that, in September 2016, U.S. intelligence officials forwarded an investigative referral to then-FBI director James Comey and deputy assistant director of counterintelligence Peter Strzok regarding “U.S. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s approval of a plan concerning U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian hackers hampering U.S. elections as a means of distracting the public from her use of a private mail server.”
Brennan, in an interview on CNN on Tuesday, provided context for his handwritten notes.
“These were my notes from the 2016 period when I briefed President Obama and the rest of the national security council team about what the Russians were up to and I was giving examples of the type of access that the U.S. intelligence community had to Russian information and what the Russians were talking about and alleging,” he said.
The former CIA chief also said that the alleged Clinton campaign actions, if accurately portrayed, amounted to lawful activity.
“If, in fact, what the Russians were alleging that Hillary was trying to highlight the reported connections between Trump and the Russians, if that was accurate and a big if, there is nothing at all illegal about that,” Brennan said.
“John Ratcliffe and others are trying to portray this as unlawful activity that deserves follow-up investigation by the FBI. No. It was a campaign activity,” he added.
Brennan also criticized Ratcliffe’s decision to declassify his notes as “designed to advance the political interests of Donald Trump and Republicans who are aligned with him.”
The FBI formally opened an investigation into the Trump campaign on July 31, 2016, five days after Clinton’s alleged approval of the smear campaign against Trump. The investigation was predicated on a conversation in which Trump campaign foreign adviser George Papadopoulos spoke about Russians having “dirt” on Clinton.
Strzok opened the investigation, known as Crossfire Hurricane, and played a major role in the investigation of Clinton’s use of an unauthorized private email server to conduct government business. In text messages, he expressed disdain for Trump and deference to Clinton, spoke of stopping Trump from becoming president, and mentioned an “insurance policy” in the “unlikely” event that Trump won the election.
Ivan Pentchoukov and Petr Svab contributed to this report.