During the hearing, Sen. Lindsey Graham made a point of contrasting the briefings on Russian meddling the FBI provided to the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Trump campaign.
Graham suggested that while Clinton was briefed about “foreign influences involving her campaign,” the FBI provided only a “vanilla briefing” to Trump’s campaign outlining that “the Russians are out there, you better beware.”
Facts First: This is largely true. According to the Justice Department inspector general’s report on the Russia investigation, the Trump campaign did not receive a briefing on suspected Russian interference in the campaign. Instead, the campaign was briefed on potential interference from foreign actors including Russia. That might sound like a small difference but it means that the FBI did not tell the Trump campaign it was actively investigating whether the Russians were meddling in his campaign.
In the recently released inspector general report, Bill Priestap, then-chief of the FBI’s counterintelligence division, explained that the campaign was not briefed because it was possible that parts of the campaign were working with Russia.
“While the Counterintelligence Division does regularly provide defensive briefings to U.S. government officials or possible soon to be officials,” Priestap said, “in my experience, we do this when there is no indication, whatsoever, that the person to whom we would brief could be working with the relevant foreign adversary.”
In other words, Priestap is suggesting that at the time there was concern inside the FBI that one or more people in the Trump campaign may have been colluding with Russia.
During today’s hearing, Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz testified that the FBI “sent one of the supervisory agents” from the team investigating whether the Russians were colluding with the Trump campaign “to the briefing.” That agent then reported back what Trump and others said during the briefing.
“So the agent was actually doing the briefing but also using it for the purpose of investigation,” Horowitz testified.