From Consortium News
CIA Director John Brennan addresses officials at the Agency's headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
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As Official Washington's latest "group think" solidifies into certainty -- that Russia used hacked Democratic emails to help elect Donald Trump -- something entirely different may be afoot: a months-long effort by elements of the U.S. intelligence community to determine who becomes the next president.
I was told by a well-placed intelligence source some months ago that senior leaders of the Obama administration's intelligence agencies -- from the CIA to the FBI -- were deeply concerned about either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump ascending to the presidency. And, it's true that intelligence officials often come to see themselves as the stewards of America's fundamental interests, sometimes needing to protect the country from dangerous passions of the public or from inept or corrupt political leaders.
It was, after all, a senior FBI official, Mark Felt, who -- as "Deep Throat" -- guided The Washington Post's Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in their Watergate investigation into the criminality of President Richard Nixon. And, I was told by former U.S. intelligence officers that they wanted to block President Jimmy Carter's reelection in 1980 because they viewed him as ineffectual and thus not protecting American global interests.
It's also true that intelligence community sources frequently plant stories in major mainstream publications that serve propaganda or political goals, including stories that can be misleading or entirely false.
What's Going On?
So, what to make of what we have seen over the past several months when there have been a series of leaks and investigations that have damaged both Clinton and Trump -- with some major disclosures coming, overtly and covertly, from the U.S. intelligence community led by CIA Director John Brennan and FBI Director James Comey?
Some sources of damaging disclosures remain mysterious. Clinton's campaign was hobbled by leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee -- showing it undercutting Clinton's chief rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders -- and from her campaign chairman John Podesta -- exposing the content of her speeches to Wall Street banks that she had tried to hide from the voters, and revealing the Clinton Foundation's questionable contacts with foreign governments.
Clinton -- already burdened with a reputation for secrecy and dishonesty -- suffered from the drip, drip, drip of releases from WikiLeaks of the DNC and Podesta emails although it remains unclear who gave the emails to WikiLeaks. Still, the combination of the two email batches added to public suspicions about Clinton and reminded people why they didn't trust her.
But the most crippling blow to Clinton came from FBI Director Comey in the last week of the campaign when he re-opened and then re-closed the investigation into whether she broke the law with her sloppy handling of classified material in her State Department emails funneled through a home server.
Following Comey's last-minute revival of the Clinton email controversy, her poll numbers fell far enough to enable Trump to grab three normally Democratic states -- Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin -- enough to give him a victory in the Electoral College.
Taking Down Trump
However, over the past few weeks, the U.S. intelligence community, led by CIA Director Brennan and seconded by FBI Director Comey, has tried to delegitimize Trump by using leaks to the mainstream U.S. news media to pin the release of the DNC and Podesta emails on Russia and claiming that Russian President Vladimir Putin was personally trying to put Trump into the White House.
Russian President Vladimir Putin during a state visit to Austria on June 24, 2014.
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This remarkable series of assessments from the CIA -- now endorsed by the leadership of the FBI -- come on the eve of the Electoral College members assembling to cast their formal votes to determine who becomes the new U.S. president. Although the Electoral College process is usually simply a formality, the Russian-hacking claims made by the U.S. intelligence community have raised the possibility that enough electors might withhold their votes from Trump to deny him the presidency.