The Frothy Right Embraces CIA’s Unmasking the Identities of Political Candidates

I was going to wait to address the frothy right’s latest attempt to gaslight an election year scandal by recycling Russian intelligence — which might well be disinformation — in an attempt to suggest that Hillary Clinton, in all-powerful fashion, managed to drum up not just the entire Russian investigation into Donald Trump, but also went back in time and planted the evidence dating back months and years that substantiated investigative concerns.

But there’s something so fundamentally stupid about this latest effort I can’t wait to lay out the other reasons this report is actually more damning for Republicans.

At issue is a report from John Ratcliffe, sent on September 29, 2020, explaining that,

In late July 2016, U.S. intelligence agencies obtained insight into Russian intelligence analysis alleging that U.S. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had approved a campaign plan to stir up a scandal against U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump by tying him to Putin and the Russians’ hacking of the Democratic National Committee. The IC does not know the accuracy of this allegation or the extent to which the Russian intelligence analysis may reflect exaggeration or fabrication.

The following week, presumably in an attempt to dredge up some kind of attack out of an absurd attack, Ratcliffe released the underlying reports that, he claimed in his original report, show the following:

According to his handwritten notes, former Central Intelligence Agency Director Brennan subsequently briefed President Obama and other senior national security officials on the intelligence, including the “alleged approval by Hillary Clinton on July 26, 2016 of a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisors to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by Russian security services.”

On 07 September 2016, U.S. intelligence officials forward an investigative referral to 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.”

By releasing the exhibits, Ratcliffe should raise real questions about his credibility. For example, I’m not at all sure this date, from Brennan’s notes, reads July 26 and not July 28, a critical difference for a ton of reasons.

The FBI report has a slew of boilerplate making it clear how sensitive this report was (for obvious reasons; effectively it shows that the CIA had some kind of visibility into Russian intelligence analysis), which makes it clear how utterly unprecedented this desperate declassification is. Former CIA lawyer Brian Greer discusses that in this Lawfare post.

Plus, Ratcliffe left out an unbelievably important part of the report: the role of Guccifer 2.0 in the Russian report. Intelligence collected in late July 2016 claimed that Hillary was going to work her alleged smear around neither the GRU (which had already been identified as the perpetrator of the DNC hack) nor WikiLeaks (which had released the DNC files, to overt celebration by the Trump campaign), but Guccifer 2.0, who looked to be a minor cut-out in late July 2016 (when this intelligence was collected), but who looked a lot more important once Roger Stone’s overt and covert communications with Guccifer 2.0 became public weeks later.

The report suggests Hillary magically predicted that days after this plot, President Trump’s rat-fucker would start a year’s long campaign running interference for Guccifer 2.0. Not only did Hillary successfully go back and trick George Papadopoulos into drunkenly bragging about Russian dangles in May 2016, then, Hillary also instantaneously tricked Stone into writing propaganda for Guccifer 2.0 days later.

No wonder they consider Hillary so devious.

Mind you, rather than producing evidence that Hillary seeded this story with the FBI (when her public attacks on Trump went right after the Russian intelligence services involved), they appear to be claiming that Hillary used the Steele dossier — which included no reporting on Guccifer 2.0, which was a very early sign of its problems — to plant a story that centered on Guccifer 2.0.

Next up, they’re going to accuse Hillary of going back in time and planting the extensive forensics that prove that the Guccifer 2.0 persona was a GRU operation.

Lucky for them, stupid stories work just fine for gaslighting the weak-minded frothers.

But here’s the craziest aspect of all of this.

The FBI report released here, dated September 7, describes three pieces of intelligence that a CIA fusion cell had collected that might be useful for the Crossfire Hurricane team. a, b, c.

The intelligence on Hillary is paragraph a.

This is CIA intelligence reporting on an American citizen, which means the original report would have necessarily masked the US person, which John Brennan would have had to unmask before reporting it at the White House meeting.

For the set of documents Ratcliffe released to exist, it would mean that John Brennan unmasked candidate the identity of Hillary Clinton, right in the middle of a presidential campaign, and shared raw intelligence incorporating that unmasked identity with others. For the Hillary intelligence to appear as paragraph a would mean she was likely the first American CIA unmasked in reporting that got shared as part of Crossfire Hurricane.

The people chasing this gaslight are some of the same people who continue to wail that — four months later — a bunch of people unmasked a report on Mike Flynn that was not, given what we can see from the closing documents in the case, shared with the Crossfire Hurricane team. For example, Andy McCarthy has written about unmasking over and over and over. Yet here he is, hopping on this latest gaslight, with nary a mention that after all this time, it looks like Hillary was the first person — the Presidential candidate herself!!! — to have her identity unmasked by the nefarious Crossfire Hurricane team.

35 replies
  1. jerryy says:

    So she has that time traveling ability but only uses it to go back and plant reports to discredit the opposition. Such restraint.

    • Mitch Neher says:

      If you’re suggesting that Hillary should’ve used her time-travel capability publicly to expose the occurrence of the June 9th, 2016, Trump Tower meeting between members of the Trump campaign and representatives of The Russian government before November 8th, 2016, then you should probably recall that the critical feature of Hillary’s plan to frame Trump for a crime that’s supposedly not even a crime must have been deliberately to lose the 2016 presidential election to Trump.

      I mean, obviously, a Trump-Russia scandal wouldn’t’ve done Hillary a lick of good once she had been sworn in as President of the United States.

      Why else would Hillary’s foreign policy adviser have allowed Russian intelligence analysts to overhear him recommending a counterintelligence operational lead be sent to The FBI so as to stir up a scandal against Trump?? (quod erat demonsterandum).

    • Valley girl says:

      Agreed, PJ. Looks like an 8 to me, because. alas. that’s exactly how my 8s look unless I am writing super-carefully. I try to be aware of this problem, because it’s caused me to dial a few wrong phone numbers. I’m left-handed, and I put down to how I hold my pen. Fine with other numbers, it’s just the 8 that gives me problems.

      • P J Evans says:

        I took engineering drawing in community college, and that fixed my number-writing so it’s nearly always legible. My 8s are two circles/ellipses, and they can’t easily be confused with other digits.

      • Ginevra diBenci says:

        Same here. It’s an eight. Mine look like ants with crushed thoraxes. I taught myself to cross my sevens as a child, partly because I thought it looked cool but mainly because my numbers are illegible; never connected it to lefty-ness, but from now on I’m gonna claim it’s because I’m artistic.

        • P J Evans says:

          I crossed my 7s and Zs (upper and lower case) for a long time because I took German in HS. Have to be careful with 7s still, because I don’t always lift the pen fast enough at the bottom, and they start looking like 2s…or Zs.

  2. yastreblyansky says:

    I can’t read Brennan’s notes that way; it doesn’t make any sense that Clinton made a decision on 26 or 28 July and Russian intelligence sources informed Brennan about it in time for a meeting on the 28th. Why would anybody in Russia even know?

    The redactions make it impossible to tell what role Clinton plays in the discussion, but it’s more plausible that Clinton’s decision to publicly suggest Trump-Russia collaboration stimulated Brennan to pressure the IC to open the investigation (which was officially on Monday the 31st, and was clearly what the meeting with Comey and Rice was about, Obama, who is cited asking if there is any evidence of Trump-Russia collaboration immediately after the Clinton mention, and McDonough aside).

    I’m thinking the foreign policy adviser in question was somebody like McFaul or Burns, both of whom were in fact out talking about Trump and Russia on the 28th, with a status to call Brennan and ask him if IC was looking at this after the WikiLeaks publication on the 22nd and Guccifer revelations on 26th (not to mention the weirdness of the Republican platform change, which we were all talking about at the time).

    • yastreblyansky says:

      (Note that Guccifer is part of point a in the 7 September memo, not a separate point; isn’t that the central element of the “gleaned” information the fusion cell is processing?)

    • bmaz says:

      Your “read” is that Clinton drove the bus? Seriously??

      As to your second read, “note” that you may be batshit.

      • yastreblyansky says:

        My “read” is that somebody like McFaul or Burns advised her to start pointing out the relations between Russian and Trump campaign as part of her campaign, an entirely reasonable and fair move to which she agreed, and Ratcliffe has used redaction to make it look like something completely different connected to “Russian intelligence”. Same kind of trick they have pulled on Alexandra Chalupa.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Your argument ignores a mountain of contrary evidence, including several successful prosecutions.

    • emptywheel says:


      Guess what?

      John Brennan didn’t open the investigation. He had nothing to do with it.

      Got any other ways you want to demonstrate you’re using my site to regurgitate bad propaganda that doesn’t make sense?

  3. BobCon says:

    The eagerness to risk a Streisand Effect is wild. Shutting down interest in a serious, professional reopening of a Trump-Russia investigation ought to be a top priority right now, especially considering ominous warnings of ongoing coordination in 2020. But the leadership is in full mania now, and they may feel they have nothing left to lose.

  4. greengiant says:

    Still lost in the mud for me is what disinformation the fusion group is talking about. GRU agent 1 discussing with GRU agent 2 about “clinton’s plan” or GRU modified documents discussing “Clinton’s plan” or just Donald Trump’s tweets?
    Consider Trump’s July 27 tweet.
    Since the DNC had been warned since 2015 about Russian hacking and crowdstrike identified two different Russian groups in May of 2016, identified the this is a no brainer for the Clinton campaign.
    Anyways we have the Donald’s tweets from July 25.
    Donald Trump says that “this clown who’s running Hillary Clinton’s campaign” accused him of hacking the DNC emails
    That is just the first page of a limited search for the origins of the agitprop on Clinton’s emails.

    • Chris.EL says:

      No citations here to substantiate my premise, just an “off top of my head” allegation: has Mrs. Clinton EVER harped on and on down yellow brick roads while whining, they’ve been mean to me?

      Don’t follow her career that closely; it doesn’t seem to be in character for her.

      It does, however, hold in character for little Donnie Trump and the sycophants he will only allow around him.

      Anyone with two brain cells to rub together can see that. Just more desperate Trumpie B.S.

      Off topic, I’m beginning to conclude Trump’s mystery trip to hospital last November could have been due to chest pains. They ran tests for cardiac enzymes, prescribed medications, and discharged him; fits that time frame. Something he would want to keep secret.

      • P J Evans says:

        She’s never done that – she did, IIRC, talk about the “vast right-wing conspiracy”, before 2008, and that seems to have been not a yellow brick road and not whining. She didn’t even complain about the 11-hour day she testified before the Congressional committee – and Donnie whines about being asked questions.

        • Chris.EL says:

          The vast right wing conspiracy has been renamed QAnon correct?

          Talk about **BAT-GUANO** the business about dude that decided to go to the pizza place with an assault rifle to hunt pedophiles — off the chart guano.

          Can’t believe folks take this stuff as REAL and TRUE.

        • graham firchlis says:

          The “VWRC” is now as it was when Hillary Clinton so aptly described it 25 years ago – the modern Republican Party.

          Koch cash and Christianist dogma, carrying the Bible and wrapped in the flag.

          • Chris.EL says:

            When I first heard of the christian evangelicals support/admiration for Trump, couldn’t make sense of it.

            After some thought, I adopted the theory it was grounded in the all important maintenance of patriarchy.

            That ties in ALL major religions of the world, their social structure of patriarchy.

      • John Paul Jones says:

        But when he mentions his cognitive test, it’s usually in the context of that November visit. So is it part of a cardiac protocol, for elderly men, to check cognitive status too? Not suggesting anything, just asking because I don’t know.

        • P J Evans says:

          I don’t know, either, but I suspect they had some medical reason to do it.
          (I don’t know if they did one after my father’s second stroke, the one that was unmistakable. They ran an MRI on him, though, and also found the damage from the first one, which had been assumed to be a TIA. No cognitive damage.)

          • P J Evans says:

            And thinking about it: after that stroke, my father designed grab rails for the bathroom, put together a parts list, and had my brother buy them and put it together. My father also bought and installed a chair lift for the stairs to the basement. (It was also very useful for getting the bags of water softener salt to the softener. And, later, getting the machine shop out of the basement.)

  5. Ginevra diBenci says:

    DOJ just concluded its “unmasking” investigation with no charges. So much for Biden’s criminality on that front. More and more it seems like Trump’s campaign is sending him on the road to distract him from actual reality, which is not playing out as he had hoped/predicted/demanded. Off with their heads!

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