The Trump administration’s top intelligence official revealed on Tuesday that he has declassified Russian intelligence alleging damaging information that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used false intelligence as “a campaign plan to stir up a scandal” by linking President Trump to Russian meddling in 2016.
And National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe said former President Barack Obama may have known about it.
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The announcement, just hours before the first presidential debate on Tuesday, drew harsh criticism from Democratic lawmakers who accused Ratcliffe of politicizing intelligence.
In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Ratcliffe said that in late July 2016, U.S. intelligence agencies obtained “insight” into Russian spycraft alleging that Hillary Clinton, who was running for president, had “approved a campaign plan to stir up a scandal against” against then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
American intelligence agencies do “not know the accuracy of this allegation or the extent to which the Russian intelligence analysis may reflect exaggeration or fabrication,” Ratcliffe admitted.
Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, called Ratcliffe’s decision “disturbing,” especially this close to a presidential election.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a member of the intelligence committee, accused Ratcliffe of abusing his position as the nation’s top spy.
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Wyden said the information being released amounted to “rumint” or intelligence based on rumors. Ratcliffe responded with a second statement claiming the intelligence was not Russian disinformation. He said he’d be briefing Congress in coming days about the “sensitive sources and methods by which it was obtained.”
Ratcliffe said he was providing the intelligence to the Judiciary Committee related to the FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation in 2016 and 2017 into links between Trump associates and Russian officials.
In his letter to the committee, Ratcliffe said that according to handwritten notes by former CIA Director John Brennan, Brennan briefed President Barack 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.”
Nick Shapiro, former CIA deputy chief of staff to Brennan, said Russian interference in the 2016 election was “real, intense and unprecedented in scale and scope.”
Shapiro said the meddling was authorized personally by Russian President Vladimir Putin to hurt Clinton and to promote the electoral prospects of Trump.
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“The intelligence on this is incontrovertible and the analysis unimpeachable,” Shapiro said.
The Associated Press contributed to this article