In the summer of 2016, Robert Hannigan, head of Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with then-CIA Head John Brennan regarding alleged communications between the Trump Campaign and Moscow.
That summer, GCHQ’s then head, Robert Hannigan, flew to the US to personally brief CIA chief John Brennan. The matter was deemed so important that it was handled at “director level”, face-to-face between the two agency chiefs.
The meeting between Hannigan and Brennan appears somewhat…unusual.
The US and the UK are two of the so-called Five Eyes — along with Canada, Australia and New Zealand — that share a broad range of intelligence through a formalized alliance.
The GCHQ is responsible for Britain’s Signals Intelligence.
The NSA is responsible for the United States’ Signals Intelligence.
Hannigan’s U.S. counterpart was not CIA Director Brennan.
Hannigan’s U.S. counterpart was NSA Director Mike Rogers.
Luke Harding of the Guardian originally reported the meeting in an April 13, 2017 article on Britain’s spy agencies early role in the Trump-Russia investigation:
GCHQ first became aware in late 2015 of suspicious “interactions” between figures connected to Trump and known or suspected Russian agents. This intelligence was passed to the US as part of a routine exchange of information
Over the next six months, until summer 2016, a number of western agencies shared further information on contacts between Trump’s inner circle and Russians.
For those wondering over the motivations behind British and European Union involvement, I would offer the following:
A new terror warning was issued for European cties. At what point do we say we have had enough and get really tough and smart. Weak leaders!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 26, 2015
Many people are equating BREXIT, and what is going on in Great Britain, with what is happening in the U.S. People want their country back!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 24, 2016
Trump was an existential threat to the Political Status Quo. A threat that extended well beyond the United States – to Britain and the European Union.
Brennan would use the British and EU intelligence to launch an inter-agency investigation.
James Clapper, director of national intelligence, later confirmed the “sensitive” stream of intelligence from Europe. After a slow start, Brennan used the GCHQ information and other tip-offs to launch a major inter-agency investigation. Meanwhile, the FBI was receiving disturbing warnings from Steele.
The inter-agency investigation may have begun a bit earlier.
The BBC reported that Brennan’s involvement may have gone back to April 2016:
Last April , the CIA director was shown intelligence that worried him. It was – allegedly – a tape recording of a conversation about money from the Kremlin going into the US presidential campaign.
It was passed to the US by an intelligence agency of one of the Baltic States. The CIA cannot act domestically against American citizens so a joint counter-intelligence taskforce was created.
The taskforce included six agencies or departments of government.
The FBI, Treasury, and DOJ handled the domestic inquiry. The CIA, Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the National Security Agency handled foreign and intelligence aspects.
The NSA was part of Brennan’s task force yet Hannigan – who abruptly announced his retirement on January 23, 2017 – specifically met only with CIA Head Brennan.
Here’s where it gets even more intriguing:
Lawyers from the National Security Division in the Department of Justice drew up an application. They took it to the secret US court that deals with intelligence, the FISA court. They wanted permission to intercept electronic records from two Russian banks.
Their first application, in June , was rejected outright by the judge.
I recently published an article detailing the litany of FISA abuses uncovered by NSA Director Rogers in 2016:
Director Rogers verbally informed the FISA Court of his findings on October 24, 2016 and formally – in written form – on October 26, 2016.
The abuses covered the period from November 2015 to May 2016 and centered around the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division and DOJ’s National Security Division.
From the FISA Court’s April 26, 2017 Ruling:
The Court is nonetheless concerned about the FBI’s apparent disregard of minimization rules and whether the FBI may be engaging in similar disclosures of raw Section 702 information that have not been reported.
The FISA abuse uncovered by Rogers was pervasive, alarming and involved multiple Intelligence Agencies.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper would try, unsuccessfully, to fire Rogers in October 2016. The timing of Clapper’s failed attempt coincided directly with Rogers’ move to inform the FISA Court of his findings.
Rogers investigation – begun in April 2016 – might help explain why Hannigan chose to meet specifically with Brennan a couple months later.
An important note: at this juncture, we do not know if there was a June 2016 FISA Application.
An event once heavily reported, details surrounding the possible June 2016 failed FISA Application have become minimal following the confirmation of the October 21, 2016 Carter Page FISA Warrant.
If this Application does exist, details of its origin – and crucial background documentation – may ultimately prove more insightful than the Carter Page FISA Application.
We do know that Senator Chuck Grassley requested information regarding the June 2016 FISA Application in a June 28, 2017 letter.
If the June FISA Application did occur, its timing appears particularly suspect when contrasted with a late July 2016 initiation of the FBI Investigation – and the ongoing FBI/NSD FISA abuses.
There is still much to be learned about the period leading up to the FBI’s initiation of a Counterintelligence Investigation into the Trump Campaign.
Brennan’s May 23, 2017 House Intelligence testimony provided some further clues to what was transpiring:
I was aware of intelligence and information about contacts between Russian officials and U.S. persons that raised concerns in my mind about whether or not those individuals were cooperating with the Russians, either in a witting or unwitting fashion, and it served as the basis for the FBI investigation to determine whether such collusion — cooperation occurred.
Brennan’s intelligence “served as the basis for the FBI investigation”.
This admission is important.
A bit later in Brennan’s testimony:
Sometime this summer, there was information that the CIA had that was shared with the Bureau. But it wasn’t the only period of time where such information was shared with the Bureau.
During his testimony, Brennan repeatedly made the assertion that he turned over any and all evidence the CIA had to the FBI.
It was well beyond my mandate as director of CIA to follow on any of those leads that involved U.S. persons. But I made sure that anything that was involving U.S. persons, including anything involving the individuals involved in the Trump campaign was shared with the bureau [FBI].
… and we were uncovering information intelligence about interactions and contacts between U.S. persons and the Russians. And as we came upon that, we would share it with the bureau.
On a February 4, 2018 appearance on Meet the Press with Chuck Todd, Brennan got more specific:
Todd: You ran the inter-agency task force out of the CIA beginning in summer ’16 – included the FBI as concerns were rising about this Russian interference. What can you say about what you believed the evidence that the FBI had to get that FISA warrant and how much of the Steele dossier was a part of it?
Brennan: We, the CIA and the intelligence community had collected a fair amount of information in the summer of 2016 about what the Russians were doing on multiple fronts. And we wanted to make sure that the FBI had full access to that.
Todd: Did the Papadopoulos thing come through the CIA via the Five Eyes thing? That would have been a piece of information that gets to the FBI? Is that how that works?
Brennan: I’m not going to get into details about how it was acquired. But the FBI has very close relationship with its British counterparts. And so the FBI had visibility into a number of things that were going on involving some individuals who may have had some affiliation with the Trump campaign.
Brennan appears to be confirming information came from British Intelligence Officials.
I’m not going to get into details about how it was acquired. But the FBI has very close relationship with its British counterparts.
Brennan again notes how he passed information he obtained on to the FBI.
We…had collected a fair amount of information in the summer of 2016…And we wanted to make sure that the FBI had full access to that.
In March 20, 2017 Congressional testimony, FBI Director Comey noted that he had not notified Congress until sometime in late February or early March 2017 of the July 2016 FBI Counterintelligence Trump-Russia Investigation (video):
Stefanik: If the open investigation began in July and the briefing of congressional leadership only occurred recently, why was there no notification prior to the recent — to the past month?
Comey: I think our decision was it was a matter of such sensitivity that we wouldn’t include it in the quarterly briefings.
Stefanik: So when you state “our decision” is that your decision? Is that usually your decision what gets briefed in those quarterly updates?
Comey: No, it’s usually the decision of the head of our counter-intelligence division.
Stefanik: Why was the decision made not to brief senior congressional leadership until recently when the investigation had been open since July? A very serious investigation — why was that decision to wait months?
Comey: Because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Comey placed full blame for the FBI’s failure to notify Congress of the Trump-Russia Counterintelligence Investigation on FBI Counterintelligence Head Bill Priestap.
Priestap is now likely cooperating with the Inspector General’s Investigation.
Brennan took a differing tact – and in his May 23, 2017 Congressional testimony effectively tossed both Comey and Priestap under the Congressional bus:
Brennan: Through the so-called Gang-of-Eight process we kept congress apprised of these issues as we identified them. 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.
Brennan is very careful to go on record in his opening statement that he briefed the Congressional Gang of Eight back in August and September of 2016. Shortly after the FBI began the Trump-Russia Counterintelligence Investigation in July 2016.
Brennan: Given the highly sensitive nature of what was an active counter-intelligence case, 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.
Here is a summarized timeline on Brennan:
April 2016 – Brennan was shown intelligence that “worried” him. The intelligence was passed to the US by an intelligence agency of one of the Baltic States.
April-June 2016 – Information flow from British Intelligence Agencies to CIA continues.
May/June 2016 – Brennan creates a six-agency task force to investigate.
Early Summer (probably June) 2016 – Brennan is briefed in-person by GCHQ’s then-head, Robert Hannigan, on information in the possession of British Intelligence.
June 2016 – Brennan passes his intelligence to the FBI. This intelligence “served as the basis for the FBI investigation”.
June 2016 – Possible FISA Application prepared by NSD lawyers.
July 2016 – FBI opens Counterintelligence Investigation into the Trump Campaign.
Late July/Early August 2016 – Brennan briefs Obama and three senior Obama Advisors.
Mid August/Early September 2016 – Brennan briefs Congressional Gang of Eight.
August 27, 2016 – Brennan’s August 25, 2016 meeting with then Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid results in Reid writing a letter to FBI Director Comey demanding a public investigation. Reid will send a second letter in October demanding Comey release all information on Trump.
Early September 2016 – Congressional briefings continue.
Mid/Late September 2016 – Brennan, Clapper and Comey begin work on three Russian Interference reports. culminating in the Intelligence Community Assessment regarding Russian interference.
October 7, 2016 – First Report – Joint Statement regarding Russian Interference – is released.
October 21, 2016 – FBI obtains FISA Warrant on Carter Page.
October 26, 2016 – NSA Director Rogers notifies FISA Court of Section 702 abuses.
December 9, 2016 – Brennan provides CIA Assessment to Obama. Claims Russia intervened in ’16 election to help President Trump and impair Hillary Clinton’s chances.
Brennan would repeat this assertion during Congressional testimony:
Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. Democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency. And to help President Trump’s election chances.
December 29, 2016 – Second Report – GRIZZLY STEPPE – Russian Malicious Cyber Activity – is released.
January 6, 2017 – Third report – Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections – is released.
Notably, NSA Director Rogers disagreed with the Intelligence Community Assessment:
CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment; NSA has only moderate confidence.
Director Rogers stated in Senate hearing testimony that his confidence did not reach even this threshold:
I wouldn’t call it a discrepancy, I’d call it an honest difference of opinion between three different organizations and in the end I made that call.…It didn’t have the same level of sourcing and the same level of multiple sources.
The full report is interesting, but three findings prove particularly relevant to this discussion:
Finding #40: Leaks of classified information regarding Russian intentions to sow discord in the U.S. presidential election began prior to election – November 8, 2016.
Finding #41: Leaks of classified information alleging Russian intentions to help elect candidate Trump increased dramatically after the election day – November 8, 2016.
Finding #42: The leaks prior to the classified Intelligence Community Assessment’s publication, particularly leaks occurring after the U.S. presidential election, correlate to specific language found in the Intelligence Community Assessment.
Leaks of classified information:
- regarding Russian election interference began before the election.
- alleging Russian efforts to help President Trump notably increased after the election.
- occurring after the election – but prior to publication of the IC Assessment – match language in the IC Assessment.
Running through these sequence of events, Brennan’s true role becomes apparent:
Brennan is the driving force behind the FBI’s 2016 Counterintelligence Investigation into the Trump Campaign.
Brennan – with an assist from DNI James Clapper – is the primary source of the entire Trump-Russia Collusion Narrative.
Consider the following:
- Brennan’s investigation into Trump-Russia Collusion began as early as April 2016.
- FBI began a Counterintelligence Investigation into the Trump Campaign in July 2016.
- FBI used Steele Dossier to obtain FISA Warrant in October 2016.
- Special Counsel Mueller began his investigation in May 2017.
- Multiple Congressional Committees have conducted their own investigations.
After two years of multiple investigations, by multiple Agencies and countless individuals, no evidence of Trump-Russia Collusion has been found.
It all originated with CIA Director John Brennan.
Contrast Brennan’s actions with the officially stated reason for the FBI’s Counterintelligence Investigation into the Trump Campaign – George Papadopoulos.
Note: For significant updates on Papadopoulos see, Ties That Bind – Stefan Halper, Joseph Mifsud, Alexander Downer (& Papadopoulos).
On December 30, 2017, the New York Times broke a story on their front page, claiming the FBI began its investigation into Russia-Trump connections because of a campaign aide’s alcohol-fueled admission.
The story claims that George Papadopoulos was speaking to an Australian diplomat while at a bar in London, mid May 2016. Papadopoulos supposedly told the diplomat that “Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton”.
The diplomat informed the Australian government of the conversation.
The Australian government would later pass this information to the FBI, which reportedly led to the opening of the Trump-Russia Investigation in July 2016:
It is not clear why, after getting the information in May, the Australian government waited two months to pass it to the FBI.
But two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts.
The hacking and the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information about it were driving factors that led the FBI to open an investigation in July 2016.
The House Memo would corroborate – and criticize – the FBI’s claimed use of Papadopoulos to open the July 2016 Trump-Russia Investigation:
The Page FISA application mentions information regarding Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos. There is no evidence of any cooperation or conspiracy between Page and Papadopoulos. The Papadopoulos information triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016 by FBI agent Peter Strzok.
Note: The House Memo is not validating Papadopoulos as an appropriate rationale. They are merely re-stating the FBI’s formal reasoning.
The Papadopoulos excuse never made any sense.
The FBI did not even bother to interview Papadopoulos until January 15, 2017. The conversation in question took place in May 2016. The FBI knew of this conversation no later than July 2016.
If the Papadopoulos information was enough to open a FBI counterintelligence investigation in July 2016, why did the FBI wait until January 2017 to even speak with Papadopoulos.
And if the Papadopoulos information was so critical, why was there no mention of either the information or Papadopoulos in any of the three Intelligence Community Reports on Russian Election Interference.
Papadopoulos served as a convenient – albeit slim – distraction from the true source of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Investigation into the Trump Campaign.
Former CIA Director John Brennan.
I find it interesting that Brennan has repeatedly disavowed the Steele Dossier:
GOWDY: Director Brennan, do you know who commissioned the steel dossier?
BRENNAN: I don’t.
GOWDY: Do you know whether any of the underlying allegations made in the steel dossier were ever tested, probed, examined, cross-examined, whether the sources were examined for reliability, credibility?
BRENNAN: I know that there were efforts made by the Bureau to try to understand whether or not any of the information in that was valid, but I don’t have any firsthand knowledge of it.
GOWDY: Do you know if the Bureau ever relied on the steel dossier as any — as part of any court filings, applications, petitions, pleadings?
BRENNAN: I have no awareness.
GOWDY: Did the CIA rely on it?
GOWDY: Why not?
BRENNAN: It wasn’t part of the corpus of intelligence information that we had. It was not in any way used as a basis for the intelligence community assessment that was done.
He would make the same assertions in that Meet the Press Interview:
Todd: When did you first learn of the so-called Steele dossier and what Christopher Steele was doing?
Brennan: I had heard just snippets about it. I did not know what was in there. I did not see it until later in that year. I think it was in December. But I was unaware of the providence of it as well as what was in it. And it did not play any role whatsoever in the intelligence community assessments that were done that was presented to then President Obama and then President-elect Trump.
This makes little sense. Why would the CIA Director not examine a document that claimed to have detailed and sourced evidence of the very thing he was looking into.
An FBI Investigation was started into Trump-Russia collusion in July 2016, yet Brennan never looked at the Dossier until December?
The FBI relied heavily on the Dossier in its October 2016 Carter Page FISA Application.
Deputy FBI Director McCabe testified before the House Intelligence Committee in December 2017 that no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC without the Steele dossier information.
It now appears likely – despite many assertions to the contrary – that Brennan and Clapper used information from the Dossier in the Intelligence Community Assessment.
Nunes appears to be investigating the matter:
Congressional leaders now suspect the dossier also informed Obama intelligence officials who compiled the ICA [Intelligence Community Assessment].
The report was released Jan. 6, 2017 – the same day intelligence officials attached a written summary of the dossier to a highly classified Russia briefing they gave Obama about the dossier.
DNI James Clapper has repeatedly been rumored to have subsequently leaked the Dossier.
The House Intelligence Committee’s final Report noted the following:
Finding #44: Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, now a CNN national security analyst, provided inconsistent testimony to the Committee about his contacts with the media, including CNN.
Let’s briefly return to a post from April 7, 2018 – and a letter sent by Nunes:
The following portion of Nunes’ letter relates to the July 2016 opening of the FBI Counterintelligence Investigation into the Trump Campaign:
- More than a month ago, on February 27, 2018 , I requested Director Wray’s assistance in gaining access to an unredacted version of an Electronic Communication (EC) related to the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign.
- On March 14, 2018, Committee investigators were given access to a still heavily redacted version of the EC, which – as I informed Director Wray the next day via phone – was unsatisfactory.
- On March 23, 2018, FBI’s Assistant Director for Legislative Affairs informed the Committee that FBI would refuse to further unredact the EC based on its supposed sensitivity.
- The document in question is not highly classified, and law enforcement sources have apparently not been shy about leaking to the press information that the Department and Bureau refuse to share with Congress.
Nunes is a member of the Gang of Eight. Per Brennan, he was fully briefed in August and September of 2016.
But for some reason, the FBI has refused to divulge the information contained in the Electronic Communication (EC). Information that theoretically should be no different than what Nunes was shown back in August/September 2016.
So ask yourself, why would the DOJ and FBI be fighting so vehemently to keep this information from coming to light.
There are several possible answers – none mutually exclusive:
- Brennan did not fully or truthfully divulge all information to the Gang of Eight. The Electronic Communication does not mesh with representations Brennan made in August/September 2016.
- The Inspector General’s Investigation has identified material issues with the Electronic Communication and cannot afford to have them divulged while Phase III of the Investigation continues.
- The EC contains information that conflicts with the Carter Page FISA Application.
- The reasons for initiating the FBI Counterintelligence Investigation are transparently weak or unsubstantiated – and do not rely primarily on Papadopoulos.
- The Electronic Communication highlights involvement of British and EU Intelligence Agencies.
- The Electronic Communication exposes John Brennan’s primary role.
George Papadopoulos was not the reason the FBI opened their 2016 Counterintelligence Investigation into the Trump Campaign.
John Brennan was the reason.
Brennan was the man pushing the entire Russian Narrative that consumed Washington D.C. – and ultimately led to the Mueller Investigation. He did this based on little or no evidence.
The Electronic Communication should prove interesting.
Postscript: The Conservative Treehouse has reported a phase of document releases may begin shortly. These potential document releases – while related – should not be confused with the Inspector General’s Report.
These potential releases may be related to the FBI’s Electronic Communication.
Articles related to Brennan:
John Brennan Heads for the Exits – May 25, 2017
John Brennan & James Clapper – Complicity, Lies & Bill Priestap – February 12, 2018