Declassified documents obtained by the Senate Judiciary Committee show FBI leadership exhibited a “double standard” for President Trump’s and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaigns, according to Chairman Lindsey Graham.
The South Carolina Republican said FBI materials, which he unveiled on Sunday, show an FBI field office wanted to pursue a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant in 2015 related to an “operative” believed to be connected to a foreign government trying to influence Clinton’s campaign by “illegally” funneling millions of dollars but were stopped the bureau’s “Seventh Floor,” which demanded Clinton’s team receive a defensive briefing about “the problem so she could fix it.”
Noting that a FISA warrant was never issued, Graham said on Fox News’s Sunday Morning Futures With Maria Bartiromo, “That was the right way to do business,” he said.
Graham, who is conducting his own investigation into the FBI’s Russia inquiry, also emphasized this was the opposite of what happened with the Trump campaign the following year.
The FBI investigated Trump campaign associates for their ties to Russia, including the use of FISA against foreign policy adviser Carter Page, but during a “generic” defensive briefing did not mention they were under scrutiny, and in fact, used the meeting to gather information about the candidate and his adviser, Michael Flynn.
Graham’s office released the documents soon after his appearance on Fox News. The chairman did not identify the Clinton campaign associate and told anchor Maria Bartiromo that he was not at liberty to identify the country the FBI believed to be attempting to infiltrate Clinton’s team.
“There was a clear double standard by the Department of Justice and FBI when it came to the Trump and Clinton campaigns in 2016,” Graham said in a statement. “These newly released documents indicate that a foreign government was trying to influence the Clinton campaign through a campaign associate and the FBI was seeking a FISA warrant. However, the Bureau, as it is supposed to do, required that Hillary Clinton be defensively briefed about the matter so she could engage in corrective action.”
When it came the Trump’s campaign, Graham said, “There were four counterintelligence investigations opened against Trump campaign associates. Not one time was President Trump defensively briefed about the FBI’s concerns. Even more egregious, when the FBI gave a generic briefing to the Trump campaign about foreign influence, not only did they fail to mention the specific concerns about Trump associates, they sent an FBI agent into the briefing to monitor President Trump and General Flynn.”
The Washington Examiner has reached out to the FBI for comment on Graham’s revelations. A bureau spokesperson declined to comment.
The defensive briefing to Clinton’s campaign was conducted at FBI headquarters on Oct. 22, 2015, by counterintelligence official David Archey, who later oversaw the FBI team working with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The briefing was also attended by two Clinton attorneys — referred to only as “Counsel to Hillary Clinton” from “Lawfirm” in the redacted documents. The summary of the briefing notes that a “full investigation” had been initiated on Nov. 25, 2014, and FBI emails indicate that the DOJ’s Office of Intelligence had sent the FBI a FISA application certification on Dec. 15, 2014, for final FBI approval, which apparently never happened.
“The purpose of the meeting was to provide a classified defensive briefing for Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign,” Archey wrote. “Counsel to Hillary Clinton were advised the FBI has information that the Foreign Government is a attempting to influence Hillary Clinton through lobbying efforts and campaign contributions. The campaign contributions may come in a form outside established parameters for such contributions.”
Archey also advised Clinton’s lawyers that “the FBI was providing them with this briefing for awareness and so Ms. Clinton could take appropriate action to protect herself.” The FBI provided Clinton’s lawyers with “examples of issues that were known to be potentially important to the Foreign Government” including five different pieces of “Sensitive Information,” which are redacted. Archey said the campaign “should increase its vigilance of contributions related to any of the matters discussed above.”
A number of declassified FBI emails from earlier in 2015, before her campaign began, show members of the FBI pushing for a FISA against the unnamed person connected to an unnamed foreign government attempting to influence Clinton’s probable campaign and wondering what was behind the holdup.
“WSJ is reporting that Hillary Clinton plans to formally announce her 2016 Presidential candidacy in April 2015. To me, this underscores the need for us to push this FISA. By the time we get it signed and go up, we would only be up a few weeks before she announces, at best,” one FBI official wrote on March 2, 2015. “On the other hand, if we wait for the events to unfold … her announcement may occur in advance of us getting the FISA coverage. That puts us even further behind the curve on the intel necessary for this operation.”
The next month, an unnamed FBI special agent-in-charge wrote an email to FBI Director James Comey, lamenting that “the FISA application has remained in limbo for the last four months, even though subsequent investigative activity” by an unnamed person held office “provided additional probable cause.” The field office was “still uncertain as to why the application has not been sent to DOJ for final approval,” according to the April 14, 2015 email, “although several reasons have been put forth” including that “the decision to put the application on hold” originated “on the seventh floor” — referring to FBI leadership.
“While superficially connected to political candidates, the investigation targets a NONUSPER [Non-U.S. Person] involved in illegal activity; it does not target the candidate(s), and there is no evidence the candidate is even aware of the potential targeting,” the special agent told Comey.
Ultimately, the FISA didn’t happen, according to Graham. His press release decried a “double standard” by the FBI when it came to the Clinton and Trump campaigns.
Previously released declassified FBI documents show the August 2016 counterintelligence briefing the bureau gave to Trump and his national security team during the 2016 campaign was used as a pretext to gather investigative evidence on the Trump campaign and Flynn.
The records show that agent Joseph Pientka, who led the portion of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation focused on Flynn, never warned candidate Trump that the FBI believed the Russian government was attempting to influence his campaign and used the briefing to further the bureau’s inquiry.
Pientka, who would later accompany then-FBI special agent Peter Strzok to interview Flynn in January 2017, detailed the August 2016 briefing he gave to Trump, Flynn, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at the FBI’s New York Field Office.
DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz testified that this briefing was a “pretext” to gather evidence on the candidate and his foreign policy adviser to help in their counterintelligence investigation. Pientka wrote that during the part of the briefing given by an official with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that he “actively listened for topics or questions regarding” Russia.
Clinton’s campaign got an identical briefing in the summer of 2016, Horowitz said, but hers was not used by the FBI to collect information on the candidate or her team.
“We concluded that the FBI’s use of this briefing for investigative reasons could potentially interfere with the expectation of trust and good faith among participants in strategic intelligence briefings, thereby frustrating their purpose,” Horowitz’s report said.
Horowitz’s report criticized the Justice Department and the FBI for at least 17 “significant errors and omissions” related to the FISA warrants against Page and for the bureau’s reliance on the Democrat-funded discredited dossier compiled by British ex-spy Christopher Steele.
Declassified footnotes from Horowitz’s report indicate that the bureau became aware that Steele’s dossier may have been compromised by Russian disinformation, and FBI interviews show Steele’s primary subsource undercut the credibility of the dossier.
Kevin Clinesmith, an ex-FBI lawyer, pleaded guilty last week to a false statements charge for fraudulently altering a CIA email to help obtain continued authority to wiretap Page. This was the first plea deal scored by U.S. Attorney John Durham in his inquiry into the Russia investigation.
Author: Daniel Chaitin