And several former high-ranking intelligence officials described Ratcliffe’s move as highly dangerous and irresponsible, given the way in which he publicly released unverified information that had originated from a foreign opponent.
The assessment said Hillary Clinton, then a Democratic presidential candidate, personally approved an effort to “stir up a scandal against US presidential candidate Donald Trump by tying him to Putin and the Russian hacking attacks on the Democratic National Committee.” However, in his letter to Graham, Ratcliffe noted that US intelligence “has no knowledge of the veracity of this claim or the extent to which Russian intelligence analysis may reflect exaggeration or forgery.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee published five thousand-page reports of Russia’s sweeping efforts to meddle in the 2016 election to bolster Trump. The panel was made aware of this claim at the start of its investigation and, according to the sources, was quick to reject it.
“I’m very, very proud of the bipartisan work of the Intelligence Committee – three and a half years, five volumes – and that work speaks for itself,” Warner said.
According to Ratcliffe, former CIA director John Brennan briefed former President Barack Obama of the Russian assessment, including allegations that Clinton approved the plan to tie Trump to the DNC’s hack after being proposed by one of their foreign policy advisers.
When asked about Ratcliffe’s allegation, Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said in a text message that the allegations were “unfounded bullshit”.
A Brennan spokesman did not immediately respond to questions about Ratcliffe’s allegations.
After receiving a backlash against the declassified material, Ratcliffe said in a statement, “To be clear, this is not Russian disinformation and has not been rated as such by the intelligence community. I will inform Congress of the sensitive sources and methods used in the days to come. “
Graham responded to his critics later on Tuesday, saying the veracity of the Russian intelligence rating was irrelevant.
“I’m not saying whether it’s true or not,” Graham told reporters. “I ask Democrats, do you care if the FBI investigated it, or do you just care to investigate Trump?”
When Graham pressed on why he published the information when it was not verified, he called it “the ultimate double standard.”
“You led the whole damn country through hell for two and a half years – and is it far-fetched to think that the post-Christopher Steele Clinton campaign would do that?” Graham was referring to the author of an unverified dossier with allegations of Trump’s ties to Russia.
A former senior intelligence official said it was “a surprising decision to release this information – this is not new and that seems unconfirmed – now and in an unclassified letter,” added, “I don’t know what good cause it served.” becomes.”
It has long been known that the Russians tried to stir up false stories about Clinton in similar ways.
In the past few days, Trump’s allies have released several revelations related to Russia’s investigation into FBI interference in the 2016 election and other information aimed at denigrating Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
Graham’s committee will hear from former FBI director James Comey on Wednesday as part of this comprehensive GOP-led investigation. Graham also announced Tuesday that former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe would testify to the panel next week. McCabe agreed to volunteer, said one aide. McCabe’s attorney said earlier Tuesday that he was denied access to his old files, which he believes are necessary to prepare for his testimony.
The President’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was among those right-wing who put the disclosure in the spotlight on Tuesday, posting on Twitter: “The Russia joke was Hillary’s plan, and Obama-Biden’s White House was informed. “
Natasha Bertrand contributed to this report.