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Intel in letter is unverified, doesn’t show Clinton planned ‘Russia hoax’

September 30, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: A declassified letter from the United States Director of National Intelligence proves that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton planned the “Russia hoax” against Trump in 2016.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The letter contains unverified Russian intelligence information and some lawmakers have criticized its release as a political move. The letter explains that in 2016, Russian intelligence had alleged that Clinton “had approved a campaign plan to stir up a scandal” against Trump. The document also clearly states that American intelligence officials do not know whether this claim is accurate, an exaggeration, or a lie.

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THE FACTS: On Tuesday, Sept. 29, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, released a letter dated the same day from the Trump administration’s top intelligence official, John Ratcliffe. It contained declassified information about the FBI’s handling of the “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation in 2016 and 2017 into links between Trump associates and Russian officials.

The letter’s release hours before the first presidential debate in the upcoming election sparked a flurry of posts on social media, many of them misrepresenting its contents as proof of wrongdoing by Democrats.

JUST DECLASSIFIED: The Russia hoax was Hillary’s plan, and the Obama-Biden White House was briefed on it,” President Donald Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. wrote in a tweet that was shared more than 58,000 times.

Similar posts from Facebook users, including former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka and conservative radio personality Mark Levin, were collectively viewed more than a million times on Tuesday. These claims are unfounded. The idea that Clinton signed on to such a plan is unverified by U.S. officials and comes from Russian spycraft, according to reporting by The Associated Press.

The letter says that in July 2016, American intelligence agencies received “insight” into Russian analysis alleging that Clinton, a presidential candidate at the time, had approved plans to create a scandal against Trump.

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It also explains that according to the former CIA director John Brennan’s handwritten notes, he briefed then-President Barack Obama on that allegation at the time.

However, the letter adds that the U.S. intelligence community “does not know the accuracy of this allegation or the extent to which the Russian intelligence analysis may reflect exaggeration or fabrication.

Therefore, the letter in no way proves it was “Hillary’s plan” to look into ties between Trump associates and Russian officials.

The AP reported that Nick Shapiro, former CIA deputy chief of staff under Brennan, has confirmed Russian interference in the 2016 election was real and authorized personally by Russian President Vladimir Putin to hurt Clinton and boost Trump’s prospects.

“Trump’s own head of counterintelligence has publicly stated that the Russians are once again helping Donald Trump,” Shapiro said, according to AP reporting. “Ratcliffe should be ashamed of his blatant politicization of his position.

Multiple lawmakers including Sen. Ron Wyden, D-OR, and Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, also criticized Ratcliffe’s release of this unverified information, calling it “disturbing” and a “politicization of intelligence.”

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536