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.