Newly declassified internal Federal Bureau of Investigation documents prove the top U.S. law enforcement agency used a so-called defensive briefing of the Trump campaign in 2016 to spy on and collect information about Donald Trump himself. The new documents, which are just the latest in a string of declassifications regarding the FBI operation to spy on the Trump campaign and later the Trump administration, detail the FBI’s attempts to use a briefing ostensibly meant to warn the Trump campaign about foreign intelligence threats to spy on the Trump campaign itself.
The documents were formally declassified by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe on July 23 then provided to Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.
In one of the documents declassified and released on Wednesday, FBI supervisory Special Agent Joe Pientka wrote that he deliberately used the briefing to “actively listen for topics or questions” from Trump “regarding the Russian Federation.” Rather than provide the Trump campaign a specific warning that certain campaign principals were being targeted by Russian intelligence, the FBI instead gave a general, non-specific warning that foreign intelligence services might eventually target the campaign.
Pientka’s written summary of the briefing noted that Trump, Michael Flynn, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were the only three Trump campaign members in attendance. Christie’s attendance had not previously been disclosed. The August 17, 2016 meeting came the day after the FBI opened a formal counterintelligence investigation against Flynn and just two days after FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok texted his former lover, FBI attorney Lisa Page, about an “insurance policy” he had designed to keep Trump from becoming president.