By Aaron Maté
In the waning days of the Obama administration, the U.S. intelligence community produced a report saying Russian President Vladimir Putin had tried to swing the 2016 election to Donald Trump.
The January 2017 report, called an Intelligence Community Assessment, followed months of leaks to the media that had falsely suggested illicit ties between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin while also revealing that such contacts were the subject of a federal investigation. Its release cast a pall of suspicion over Trump just days before he took office, setting the tone for the unfounded allegations of conspiracy and treason that have engulfed his first term.
The ICA's blockbuster finding was presented to the public as the consensus view of the nation's intelligence community. As events have unfolded, however, it now seems apparent that the report was largely the work of one agency, the CIA, and overseen by one man, then-Director John Brennan, who closely directed its drafting and publication with a small group of hand-picked analysts.
Nearly three years later, as the public awaits answers from two Justice Department inquiries into the Trump-Russia probe’s origins, and as impeachment hearings catalyzed by a Brennan-hired anti-Trump CIA analyst unfold in Congress, it is clear that Brennan’s role in propagating the collusion narrative went far beyond his work on the ICA. A close review of facts that have slowly come to light reveals that he was a central architect and promoter of the conspiracy theory from its inception. The record shows that:
- Contrary to a general impression that the FBI launched the Trump-Russia conspiracy probe, Brennan pushed it to the bureau – breaking with CIA tradition by intruding into domestic politics: the 2016 presidential election. He also supplied suggestive but ultimately false information to counterintelligence investigators and other U.S. officials.
- Leveraging his close proximity to President Obama, Brennan sounded the alarm about alleged Russian interference to the White House, and was tasked with managing the U.S. intelligence community's response.
- While some FBI officials expressed skepticism about the Trump/Russia narrative as they hunted down investigative leads, Brennan stood out for insisting on its veracity.
- To substantiate his claims, Brennan relied on a Kremlin informant who was later found to be a mid-level official with limited access to Putin’s inner circle.
- Circumventing normal protocol for congressional briefings, Brennan supplied then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid with incendiary Trump-Russia innuendo that Reid amplified in a pair of public letters late in the election campaign.
- After Trump's unexpected victory, Brennan oversaw the hasty production of the tenuous Intelligence Community Assessment.
- Departing from his predecessors’ usual practice of staying above the political fray after leaving office, Brennan has worked as a prominent analyst for MSNBC, where he has used his authority as a former guardian of the nation’s top secrets to launch vitriolic attacks on a sitting president, accusing Trump of "treasonous" conduct.