05.17.2018 0

U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee embraces 2017 DNI report that says Russia preferred Trump to win the 2016 election

By Robert Romano

The Senate Intelligence Committee has adopted the findings of the Jan. 6, 2017 Director of National Intelligence (DNI) assessment on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections that Russia’s intent was to help President Donald Trump win the election.

It is an assessment that should have never been published.

When you get right down to it, the DNI report on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections served but one true purpose: To delegitimize President Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory by suggesting he owed it Russia, to undermine the incoming administration’s foreign policy and to provide a political context for the collusion investigation that was already ongoing into Trump campaign and soon-to-be administration officials.

That report was published the same day that then-FBI Director James Comey briefed Trump at Trump Tower in New York City on the Democrat paid-for Fusion GPS-Christopher Steele dossier that alleged the incoming President was a Russian agent who had helped Russia hack the DNC and put the emails onto Wikileaks. That was when they crossed the Rubicon. They were declaring war on Trump.

It was that meeting that enabled and gave CNN an excuse to report on the dossier’s charges, and then Buzzfeed to publish them on Jan. 11, 2017.

In short, the intelligence agencies — knowing full well that the FBI had already undertaken a massive counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign months earlier — were determined to knee-cap the President on his way into office. It was a hit job.

There was almost no other good reason to publish the following findings:

  • “We assess the influence campaign aspired to help President-elect Trump’s chances of victory when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to the President-elect.”
  • “We assess Putin, his advisers, and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump over Secretary Clinton.”

Even if those things were true, they lacked vital context. For example, the report also stated, “Moscow also saw the election of President-elect Trump as a way to achieve an international counterterrorism coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).”

There was legitimate context to such a finding, which was actually completely unsurprising. And, again, it still never should have been published.

In fact, President Trump had campaigned openly in 2016 on the idea of achieving détente with Russia and working together to destroy Islamic State. Similarly, incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had traveled to Moscow in Dec. 2015, weeks before joining the Trump campaign, to very publicly promote that very idea of a U.S.-Russian alliance to defeat Islamic State. All of that was public information.

It was a political matter, best left to the electorate to decide if that was the right policy. But that DNI finding still should have never been published. It politicized and criminalized a policy difference of opinion.

Flynn was no Russian agent. Neither was Trump. But the President was determined to change course in 2016 on Russia policy. He had singled out Syria as a hotspot that needed to be cooled down. And he had every right to do so. And the intelligence community had zero right to undermine the President days before he took office by suggesting that somehow the U.S. electorate had been manipulated to achieve Moscow’s preferred policy objectives.

The goal of the assessment’s publication was not to advance the incoming administration’s objectives, for example, putting together an international coalition, including Russia, against terrorist groups. It was absolutely to undermine that policy and to make conflict rather than détente more likely. To undermine Flynn, the policy’s principal architect, who would be interrogated by the FBI just days later. That’s what made the Jan. 2017 DNI assessment a political document.

The goal was to destroy Trump from day one. There was no other reason for those findings should to have ever been made public.

By then, the Obama administration had already made up its mind that Steele was correct. That Trump was a Russian agent. It’s as plain as day.

Now we know there were major reasons to doubt the Steele dossier. For example, putting Trump lawyer Michael Cohen in Prague in August or September of 2016 supposedly meeting with Russian agents when he apparently has never been there, and so the meetings couldn’t have happened either.

And yet, the Senate Intelligence Committee is still uncritically embracing the DNI’s findings and not at all questioning the motives for publishing those findings, even today. By saying Russia wanted Trump to win, they are delegitimizing the very real debate over policy that was taking place in 2016 over how the two foremost nuclear powers in the world need to relate to one another, a discussion we very much need to have. It’s incredibly reckless and it underscores the need to get to the bottom of why this investigation was launched by the Obama administration in the first place. This is turning out to be one of the dirtiest tricks in the history of politics, and we’ll be lucky to live through it.

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.

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