The briefing that Pientka provided was formulated in collaboration with disgraced former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Kevin Clinesmith--the lawyer who altered documents that were used in the final Carter Page FISA application. The content of the briefing is unexceptional, consisting basically of generalities about how foreign intelligence services target Americans with access to sensitive information--including presidential candidates.
At the time that Pientka provided this briefing he was the case agent for Crossfire Razor, the investigation of Michael Flynn that DoJ has stated--correctly--lacked any plausible predication. Pientka later tried to close the investigation before Trump was inaugurated, citing the utter lack of any indications that Flynn should be under investigation for anything. However, Pientka's selection to provide this briefing was intimately connected with the Flynn investigation. As Pientka told IG Michael Horowitz, he was selected to give the briefing precisely in order to observe Michael Flynn and to assess his personality, with a view to a possible later investigative interview of Flynn.
It is in that context that John Solomon makes what I consider to be a shrewd observation. In the memo Pientka records quite precisely everything that Trump and Flynn said--to all appearances Pientka records their exact words each time they spoke. What Trump and Flynn said was, in fact, no more exceptional than the briefing itself. Trump asked sensible questions, given the nature of the briefing--asking for an assessment of the relative threats posed by Russia and China and acknowledging the difficulties in maintaining secure communications. Flynn focused on FBI workloads, but briefly.
I'm speculating here--obviously I've never given such a briefing and have never read the writeup of such a briefing. However ...
I was struck that Pientka was so precise in providing what appear to be direct quotes of the words used by Trump and Flynn. As I said, their remarks were unexceptional. In the circumstances I would probably have simply provided a summary of the topics Trump and Flynn raised, e.g., Mr. Trump asked about the relative threats posed by the Russians and the Chinese, rather than:
Trump asked the following question, "Joe, are the Russians bad? Because they have more numbers are they worse than the Chinese?"
The choice of how to record the exchange can come down to the personal style of the reporting agent. However, Pientka doesn't enclose his own response within quotation marks--he's treating his own words and Trump's (and Flynn's) words differently. What I'm saying is that it strikes me that the memo was written to be read by other FBI officials who would be scrutinizing every single word in order to draw out anything they could assess regarding Trump and Flynn. In other words, it reads to me more like an investigative report than a report of an important but rather routine briefing--the fact that it could be declassified with minimal redactions is an indication of how routine it was. Maybe I'm wrong, but Horowitz also focused on this issue and I have no doubt that Durham's investigators have grilled Pientka regarding all the circumstances surrounding that briefing--before and after.
Catherine Herridge of CBS News gets it--I suspect someone in the know pointed these things out to her, because they're very much on point and indicate inside knowledge:
From senior administration official to @DNI_Ratcliffe declassified records: "The August 2016 briefing was apparentlyy part of the so-called “insurance policy" to ensure an outcome that would block then candidate Trump. The defensive briefer admits gathering questions or issues "related to the Russian federation" and, significantly, the briefing notes are filed under the FBI Russia probe “Crossfire Hurricane,” and the FBI probe into General Flynn dubbed “Crossfire Razor.”
One of the players, a former FBI lawyer, was later accused of forging a CIA document to continue surveillance @carterwpage when the investigation failed to uncover evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.”
What the "senior administration official" is getting at is this: One would expect that briefing notes--such as this memo--would be directed to a "control" file titled something like: Presidential Candidate NS Briefings. Something of the sort. Instead, Pientka's memo was routed to the investigative casefiles for the FBI Trump/Russia enterprise investigation “Crossfire Hurricane,” and the FBI investigation into General Flynn dubbed “Crossfire Razor.” That's a pretty clear indication that the FBI regarded Pientka's briefing as investigative activity rather than a route security briefing. The question comes back to predication: What reason did the FBI have for treating the briefing in that manner? The only reason could be that they had reasonable predication for the two investigations to which the memo was routed--but they didn't. Pientka's later attempt to close the Flynn investigation and Strzok's later text to Page ("we both know there's probably no 'there' there") show that they had no predication and they knew they didn't.
It strikes me that when giving a briefing, i.e. briefing notes/summary handed to the recipients, with a discussion of questions triggered by the content of the notes/summary, the briefing agent would take notes regarding questions/information for follow-up, not verbatim quotes of what was said during the briefing.ReplyDelete
That is, it doesn't seem to be the purpose of the briefing agent to be making a record of the meeting. The briefing notes, as in the PDB, is a record, except for that which is inquired about requiring a follow-up.
That's how it struck me, too. The significance of this--and what Durham is surely looking at and discussing with Pientka--is that it indicates conspiratorial intent directed at Trump and Flynn. When coupled with lack of predication, this memo becomes persuasive evidence that the conspirators intended to defraud the government of their honest services. Not the whole ball of wax, but a step along the way.Delete
Wow! Now there's proof that Pientka and, the rest of the FBI, were engaged in an unpredicated investigation of Donald Trump to destroy his candidacy.ReplyDelete
Glad we've cleared that up.
Does the fact that this is only being declassified now, and that Pientka has been off the radar hiding in the SF FBI office for the past few years, and not made available for Congressional interviews, a clue that he's a cooperating witness for Durham?ReplyDelete
I believe so. In addition to the Flynn case he's important because he became for several months Bruce Ohr's handler.Delete
Another observation: I do not believe it is possible for briefer to simultaneously deliver the briefing AND take verbatim notes of what everyone else says or asks, unless Pientka is a stenographer in his spare time. Furthermore, extensive note taking of what the recipients of the briefing are saying could trigger suspicion on the part of anyone in the room with a brain (Flynn most obviously; Christy as a former prosecutor as well.)ReplyDelete
I thus conclude he was wearing a recording device, and wrote up the verbatim quotes based on the recording.
(I suspect Comey did likewise with Trump for his memos to record about their one on one meetings.)
I withdraw my previous observation, in light of the fact that Pientka's briefing only lasted 13 minutes.Delete
His substantive Russia related note taking was apparently during other briefings.
"Pientka's later attempt to close the Flynn investigation and Strzok's later text to Page... show that they had no predication, and they knew it."ReplyDelete
Watch them argue that they once had it, but faced music that it had crumbled.
Yes, their dog ate their predication.Delete
Damn, you beat me to that one!Delete
Another observation: the FBI sent in an agent to spy on the GOP presidential candidate and his top advisors under the ruse of giving them a defensive security briefing, before the FBI ever interviewed the people they claimed were the predication for opening an investigation!ReplyDelete
They hadn't bothered to interview PapaD to find out what exactly he heard about the Russians, and from whom. IOW, they had no basis on which to even think the stuff he blathered to Downer was anything other than BS or gossip.
This suggests the idea of spying on the Trump campaign was already baked into the cake before they opened CH, which was opened on the thinnest of gruel. Kinda like planning the execution before the Jury is even asked to deliberate.
"They hadn't *bothered* to interview PapaD to find out what...." is a smoking gun, toward the fraudulence of CH.Delete
Yes, I believe the PapaD aspect will end up playing a significant role. As I remarked earler, Durham wouldn't have flown to Italy three times, and spent so much time with the Brits and Aussies if it wasn't important. PapaD himself steadfastly maintains optimism that he will be "cleared."Delete
"They hadn't bothered to interview PapaD to find out what exactly he heard about the Russians, and from whom. IOW, they had no basis on which to even think the stuff he blathered to Downer was anything other than BS or gossip."
But they didn't need to interview PapaD to find out what he heard from the Russians and told Downer because the preposterous Mifsud-PapaD-Downer minuet (for three) was concocted in some conference room in Langley for the sole purpose of framing PapaD, and then getting Trump.
That's how it seems to me. SOP would suggest that PapaD be interviewed and a concerted effort made to recruit him. There's nothing in the original account of his interaction with Downer or others that would suggest he was personally invested in the supposed Trump Russia collusion, therefore a recruitment attempt would seem natural--IF this had been a legit investigation.Delete
After scanning through the memo, it seemed to be a pro forma briefing with little in the way of details. Why such a memo was held for so long for such vanilla content begs the question why - until you read the final few paragraphs.ReplyDelete
Interesting this is released now.ReplyDelete
It’s another hit to the fbi’s reputation, with evidence they were targeting Trump and Flynn.
Ratcliffe is the new Sheriff in town. That's the only reason it is being released. Jensen would have released it, as well, but he got a lot of stuff out in a very short time period.Delete
It's not so much as a hit on the FBI's reputation as it is exposing the corruption within the FBI.Delete
Contrary to what Hannity would like people to believe, there are more than 1% of FBI Agents who are corrupt; a lot more.
More on Steele’s “Russian” source:ReplyDelete
What a very bad joke.Delete