Former intel official: Trump-Russia dossier 'played no role' in our analysis of Russian meddling

  • Conservative commentators and allies of President Donald Trump have sought to cast the Russia investigations as a partisan witch hunt in light of revelations that the Trump-Russia dossier was funded by a lawyer for Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee.
  • But the former general counsel for the Director of National Intelligence says the dossier "played absolutely no role" in the intelligence community's assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
  • "The salacious allegations in the 'dossier' are a mere sideshow that should not distract from a comprehensive investigation" of Russian interference, said the lawyer, Robert Litt.

The former top lawyer for the office of the Director of National Intelligence said Thursday that the dossier alleging ties between President Donald Trump's campaign team and Russia "played absolutely no role" in the intelligence community's "coordinated intelligence assessment that Russia interfered in the election."

Robert Litt wrote for the national security blog Lawfare that that "important point is sometimes lost in the discussion" of the dossier, which came back into the news this week amid revelations that a lawyer for former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign team and the Democratic National Committee paid for the research that produced the explosive memos. 

"That assessment, which was released in unclassified form in January but which contained much more detail in the classified version that has been briefed to Congress, was based entirely on other sources and analysis," Litt wrote.

That declassified report, which came from the office Litt was working for at the time, concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin interfered in the election to harm Clinton's candidacy and boost Trump's.

RELATED: Key players in Trump-Russia connection allegations

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Key players in Trump-Russia connection allegations

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort signed on as Donald Trump's campaign manager in March 2016. A longtime Republican strategist and beltway operative, Manafort had previously served as an adviser to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich -- a pro-Russia leader who was violently ousted in 2014. Manafort resigned from his campaign position in August 2016 amid questions over his lobbying history in Ukraine for an administration supportive of Russia. The former campaign manager reportedly remained in Trump's circle during the post-election transition period.

Michael Flynn

Gen. Michael Flynn was named President Trump's national security adviser in November of 2016. Flynn reportedly met and spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, at one point discussing sanctions. Flynn originally told Vice President Pence he did not discuss sanctions -- a point the Department of Justice said made the national security adviser subject to blackmail. Flynn resigned from his position in February.

Sergey Kislyak

Outgoing Russian ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak is the Russian official U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions -- communication Sessions denied during his Senate committee hearing testimony.

R. James Woolsey

Woolsey, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), has cooperated with Mueller's investigation and worked with Michael Flynn and was present at a meeting where they discussed removing the controversial Turkish Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen from US soil. 

(Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Roger Stone

Stone is a longtime Republican political consultant who served as a campaign adviser to Trump who continued to talk with the then-GOP candidate after stepping away from his adviser role. Stone claimed last year that he had knowledge of the planned WikiLeaks release of emails pertaining to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Stone recently admitted to speaking via direct message with "Guccifer 2.0" -- an online entity U.S. officials believe is tied to Russia. Stone says the correspondence was “completely innocuous.”

Jeff Sessions

Former U.S. senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama joined Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser in February 2016. Sessions was nominated to be U.S. attorney general by President Trump and was then confirmed by the Senate. Reports then emerged that Sessions had spoken twice with Sergey Kislyak while he was senator -- a fact that he left out of his Senate hearing testimony. Instead, he said in writing that he had not communicated with any Russian officials during the campaign season. Sessions defended himself saying he had spoken with Kislyak specifically in a senate capacity.

Russian President Vladimir Putin

The American intelligence community accused Putin in Jan. 2017 of ordering a campaign to undermine trust in the American electoral process, developing a clear preference for Trump as president. "We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump," the report read.

James Comey

Comey publicly confirmed in March an FBI inquiry into Russia's involvement in the 2016 election. “The F.B.I., as part of our counterintelligence effort, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 president election,” Comey stated.

Carter Page

Page worked for Merrill Lynch as an investment banker out of their Moscow office for three years before joining Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser. During his time with Merrill Lynch, Page advised transactions for two major Russian entities. Page has called Washington "hypocritical" for focusing on corruption and democratization in addressing U.S. relations with Russia. While Page is someone Trump camp has seemingly tried to distance itself from, Page recently said he has made frequent visits to Trump Tower.

J.D. Gordon

Before Gordon joined the Trump campaign as a national security adviser in March 2016, he served as a Pentagon spokesman from 2005 through 2009. Like others involved in Trump-Russia allegations, Gordon met with ambassador Kislyak in July at the Republican National Convention, but has since denied any wrongdoing in their conversation. He advocated for and worked to revise the RNC language on and position toward Ukraine relations, so it was more friendly toward Russia's dealings in the country.

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The CIA, FBI, and NSA were highly to moderately confident that "Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump" and launched an "influence campaign" that included "covert intelligence operations" and cyber activity and "overt efforts by Russian government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users, or 'trolls.'" 

Former FBI Director James Comey told the House Intelligence Committee earlier this year that the bureau opened its investigation into Russia's election interference in July 2016, after independent cybersecurity researchers discovered that Russia-linked hackers had breached Democratic National Committee servers. It is not clear whether Comey launched the probe before or after the DNC emails were published by WikiLeaks on July 22.

The former British spy Christopher Steele, who wrote the dossier for the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, wrote his first memo on June 20, 2016 and sent it back to Fusion shortly thereafter. That memo began with an explosive claim: The "Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting, and assisting Trump for at least five years. Aim, endorsed by Putin, has been to encourage splits and divisions in western alliance." 

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