In the latest posting by Publius Tacitus concerning this subject, he made the following claim.
“In other words, if the Russians really were in a full court press beyond their normal propaganda activities, then the intelligence community should have been galvanized to collect more information and should have briefed the leaders of the Senate and House intelligence committees. That did not happen. Key Republican leaders DID NOT, I repeat NOT, receive such a briefing. For example, Devin Nunes, the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, did not get briefed by Brennan or any of his minions on this subject.”
I took issue with this interpretation of events in a response to a question posed by Fred.
“Brennan started briefing the Gang of Eight individually beginning with Reid. He finished all individual briefings on 5 Sep 2016 commenting that it proved difficult to get appointments and talk with certain Republicans. Obama also sent Comey, Jeh Johnston and Lisa Monaco to brief the "Gang of Twelve" that included the chairmen and ranking minority members of Homeland Security and Intelligence to seek bipartisan support to respond forcefully to the Russians in early Sep 2016. McConnell reacted forcefully to stifle the intelligence and any forceful response saying “he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.””
I got it mostly right, but upon further research I discovered I was wrong about the 5 September date. It was 6 September. Publius Tacitus still took issue with this insisting “Brennan did not brief all of the Republicans.” I offered further proof of my claim in two comments which Publius chose not to publish. That is his prerogative as a guest writer here. I’ve decided to continue the discussion in this post. That is my prerogative as a guest writer… subject to the final decision of Colonel Lang, of course. Both Publius and I must abide by those decisions.
I offer the testimony of John Brennan given before the HPSCI on 23 May 2017 to bolster my case that Brennan did brief the “Gang of Eight” on the intelligence community’s initial findings that Russia was interfering with the 2016 elections.
“Again, in consultation with the White House, I PERSONALLY briefed the full details of our understanding of Russian attempts to interfere in the election to congressional leadership; specifically: Senators Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, Dianne Feinstein and Richard Burr; and to representatives Paul Ryan, Nancy Pelosi, Devin Nunes and Adam Schiff between 11th August and 6th September , I provided the same briefing to each of the gang of eight members.”
“Given the highly sensitive nature of what was an active counter-intelligence case [that means the FBI], involving an ongoing Russian effort, to interfere in our presidential election, the full details of what we knew at the time were shared only with those members of congress; each of whom was accompanied by one senior staff member.”
This particular transcription of Brennan’s remarks was done by a darling of the deep state conspiracy crowd, sundance. Sundance was also kind enough to provide a video of Brennan’s remarks. Note that Brennan names those he briefed and that list included Nunes. Sundance accepts Brennan’s account of these meetings and, in fact, uses those remarks to beat Comey over the head over a related issue.
As long as I’m writing a post, I might as well address a couple of other points raised by Publius Tacitus. There was no “formal lack of response by the intelligence community.” Prior to the briefing of the “Gang of Eight,” Brennan established an intelligence task force of a couple dozen analysts from CIA, NSA and FBI to focus on the issue of Russian interference. This is probably the same team that wrote the January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment. The establishment of this task force was preceded by intelligence obtained by the CIA through some kind of SIGINT, HUMINT or bilateral (FVEY) operation that detailed Putin’s direct involvement in the cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the US election. This intelligence also captured Putin’s instructions on the operation’s eventual objectives, to defeat or at least damage Clinton, and help elect Trump. Brennan sent this intelligence directly to Obama by courier prior to the “Gang of Eight” briefings. I remember the widespread outcry when the existence of this intelligence came out. It appeared to blow an apparent US penetration of Russian government secure communications. Maybe it did. But Brennan’s call to FSB director, Alexander Bortnikov, on 4 August 2016 warning him to knock it off probably tipped off the Russians long before the public outing of the intelligence as did Obama’s face to face warning to Putin at the G20 Summit that he knew what Putin was doing and warned him to knock it off.
In addition to this intelligence, the IC had at that time intelligence from Estonia (and maybe others) about Page’s June trip to Moscow, the Dutch observation of Cozy Bear activities and the report from Australia about Popadopoulis’ drunken ramblings in a London bar. None of that came from the Steele dossier. All of that is conveniently ignored by the deep state conspiracy theorists. All the information Reid referenced in his letter to Comey probably came from his briefing by Brennan, but we can reasonably disagree on the role or non-role of the Steele dossier.
In my earlier response to Publius Tacitus, I noted the forcefulness of McConnell in preventing a public release of intelligence about Russian meddling or a public response to that meddling. At that point in time, the Republican desire to keep this issue quiet can be seen as a reasonable maneuver of political electioneering… or healthy skepticism. However, perhaps there’s more to it than that. There are dueling conspiracy theories swirling around this whole Russia thing. Nunes was close to Flynn and was on the Trump transition team. I think he’s too close to this to not recuse himself altogether, rather than this half-hearted recusal he currently claims. His continued efforts to derail the Mueller investigation smacks of conspiracy in my mind.
We still need to wait for the Mueller investigation to run its course and hope that the results will be released to the public. We need that and the results of the ongoing FBI IG investigation. Until then we’ll continue to gleefully argue our respective points in a vacuum. Unless your comments are unusually abrasive and contribute nothing to the conversation, I’ll publish them.