Source says FBI agent used 2016 briefing on election interference as ‘cover’ to question Trump team

EXCLUSIVE: A newly declassified document obtained by Fox News reveals that the FBI agent who delivered the defensive briefing on election interference to the Trump campaign in August 2016 “actively listened” for certain topics – using it as a “cover” to monitor then-candidate Donald Trump and Michael Flynn, a source familiar with the document said.

The document, obtained by Fox News, was declassified by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and transmitted to Capitol Hill.

The document reflects type-written notes by FBI agent Joe Pientka after an August 17, 2016 briefing to then-candidate Donald Trump, Michael Flynn and Chris Christie, "in support of ODNI briefings provided to U.S. Presidential candidates and two of their advisors."

The briefing, which was held at the FBI's New York Field Office, also included a "13- minute defensive briefing" delivered by Pientka. The ODNI briefer was Edward Gistaro, according to the document.


The document was dated August 30, 2016, and filed under “Crossfire Hurricane,” the FBI’s code name for its investigation into whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians to influence the 2016 election; “Crossfire Razor,” the FBI’s code name for the investigation into Michael Flynn; "Russia Sensitive Investigative Matter," and FARA, the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

The document states that FBI officials Kevin Clinesmith and Peter Strzok "approved" Pientka's notes.

The source told Fox News that Pientka, at the time of the briefing, was also tasked with running the FBI's investigation into Flynn.

The source went on to tell Fox News that the briefing was used as “a cover to listen for any remarks” by Trump or others about the Russian federation.

During the briefing, the source told Fox News that Trump asked Pientka: “Joe, are the Russians bad? Because they have more numbers are they worse than the Chinese?"

Pientka, according to the notes, responded by saying: “Both countries are bad.”

The source told Fox News that it was Pientka’s duty to “warn and tell the candidate what they needed to watch out for,” but that he did not implicitly warn that the “Russians were targeting the campaign.”

"During the ODNI briefs, writer actively listened for topics or questions regarding the Russian Federation," Pientka wrote in his notes.

According to the notes, the ODNI briefer said the U.S. "is the world leader in Counterterrorism."

"Trump then asked, 'Russia too?'" Pientka wrote. "During a discussion regarding nuclear testing, Russia and China were brought up as cheating on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Trump asked, 'Who's worse?' [REDACTED] stated 'they are both bad, but Russia is worse.'"

The notes added: "Trump and Christie turned toward each other and Christie commented, 'I'm shocked.'"

Meanwhile, according to the source and the document, Pientka’s case file was “approved” by Clinesmith and Strzok.

A senior administration official told Fox News Thursday that the newly-declassifed document "shows the same cast of virulent characters that spearheaded the Russia hoax, set Trump up from jump."

"Clinesmith, the FISA forger and his trusted sidekick, Strzok, attempted to make good on their promise to prevent Trump from winning," the official told Fox News. "A scam briefing from a scam crew of miscreants at the FBI."

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz last year found that Clinesmith altered an email to say that former Trump campaign aide Carter Page had not been a CIA source, when in fact he had been working with them. This ultimately led to the FBI renewing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant against Page while leaving exculpatory evidence out of their application.

Pientka participated in the January 2017 White House interview that led to Flynn's prosecution.

Fox News has previously determined that Pientka was also intimately involved in the probe of former Trump aide Carter Page, which the DOJ has since acknowledged was riddled with fundamental errors and premised on a discredited dossier that the bureau was told could be part of a Russian disinformation campaign.

Meanwhile, Fox News also obtained a newly-declassified document which appeared to be Pientka's oultine for the briefing with the Trump team, dated August 17, 2016, and also labeled "Crossfire Hurricane" and "Outline used during Trump brief on 8/17/16."

The document outlined topic Pientka briefed the Trump team on, and included hand-written notes in the margins.

The handwritten notes refer to Flynn, during the briefing, asking Pientka “How many Special Agents are in the FBI?" which Pientka replied "over 10,000."

The initial document stated Flynn replied: "You have 17,000."

The initial document revealed that Flynn asked Pientka if the Russia threat was "worse now than during the Cold War?"

"Writer responded that the number of identified known and suspected IOs from hostile Foreign Intelligence Services posted in the U.S. are equal to or greater than during the Cold War," the intial document read.

On the document outlining the guidelines for the briefing, Pientka scribbled notes in the margins, including "Flynn worse than cold war," and "Flynn 17,000," among other illegible notes.

Fox News' Gregg Re contributed to this report.