Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe released Russian disinformation hours before the presidential debate Tuesday, declassifying the information without vetting or disavowing it.
Per Politico, the information had previously been rejected by both Democratic and Republican members of the Senate Intelligence Committee because it lacked any factual basis.
The information was revealed in a Tuesday letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
“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,” Ratcliffe said in the letter.
“The IC does not know the accuracy of this allegation or the extent to which the Russian intelligence analysis may reflect exaggeration or fabrication,” he added.
He also said that then-CIA Director John Brennan briefed President Barack Obama on the Russian claims.
The Intel Committee came across the allegation against Clinton early on during its investigation that led to five reports on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, but quickly dismissed it, per Politico.
Democrats were outraged by the seemingly unnecessary release of Russian chatter, the kind which has long aimed to sow unwarranted doubt.
“This is Russian disinformation,” wrote Rachel Cohen, communication director for Senate Intel Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) on Twitter. “Laundered by the Director Of National Intelligence and Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. This is extraordinary.”
A spokesperson for Senate Intel Chairman Mark Rubio (R-FL) did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.
The letter, eagerly latched onto by the likes of Donald Trump Jr., was just one drop in the conspiracy theory deluge pushed by the right-wing elements of the internet and Trump allies before Tuesday’s debate.
A virally shared claim asserted that former Vice President Joe Biden would be wearing a secret earpiece during the debate and that he had backed out of an agreement to have his ears inspected beforehand. The Biden campaign said they made no such agreement. Another conspiracy theory, amplified by Trump campaign senior legal adviser Jenna Ellis on Twitter, said baselessly that Biden had been fed debate questions in advance.
Read the letter here: