Politics & Policy

FBI Agents Who Opened Crossfire Hurricane Gave Trump His First Intelligence Briefing as Candidate in 2016

President Donald Trump stands next to a portrait of former President George Washington as he attends at the White House in Washington, D.C., July 22, 2020. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

The FBI agents who gave Donald Trump his first intelligence briefing during the 2016 election season had already opened an investigation into ties between Trump’s team and Russian officials, a document declassified on Thursday shows.

That document is a seven-page summary of the briefing on August 17, 2016, written about two weeks later and filed as part of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation. The summary was written by agent Joe Pientka, who took part in the briefing, and approved by Peter Strzok and Kevin Clinesmith. (Strzok was dismissed from the FBI following the leak of his politically-charged, anti-Trump texts, while Clinesmith is a lawyer accused of altering a document used to renew a FISA warrant on former Trump-campaign adviser Carter Page.)

Also present at the briefing was Trump adviser Michael Flynn, referred to in the document as “Crossfire Razor.” Pientka and Strzok would later interview Flynn at the White House on January 24, 2017. On the basis of that interview, Flynn was then charged with lying to federal investigators.

“During the [intelligence] briefs, writer actively listened for topics or questions regarding the Russian Federation,” Pientka wrote in the August 2016 summary.

The document was among a collection declassified on Thursday by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, and sent to Senators Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) and Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), who are investigating the origins of the Russia probe. Pientka’s notes from the August, 2016 briefing as well as emails between Pientka and Strzok were also declassified. In the emails, Strzok asks Pientka to include counterintelligence officials in future briefings with Trump.

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.


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