Claim: Many Vietnamese-Americans believe President Donald Trump’s claim that President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton approved a federal disinformation campaign to tie Trump to Russia.
Rating: This claim is FALSE. This claim, which is the basis of the Obamagate conspiracy theory, is not based on U.S. intelligence sources. It’s based on unverified rumors from Russian intelligence, with no supporting evidence. It also draws attention away from a Senate Intelligence report that said that Russia did interfere in the 2016 election with the goal of electing Trump. Russia is currently interfering in the 2020 election.
On Oct. 7, 2020, President Trump retweeted a two-year-old tweet from a right-wing Twitter account @AMErikaNGIRLLL, which said: “The highest ranking members of the FBI, NSA, and CIA were not only spying on Trump. They were trying to subvert his election win with #FakeIntelligence and a #FakeInvestigation Fire.”
In response, Trump tweeted: “Wow!!! NOW DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS, THE BIGGEST OF ALL POLITICAL SCANDALS (IN HISTORY)!!! BIDEN, OBAMA AND CROOKED HILLARY LED THIS TREASONOUS PLOT!!! BIDEN SHOULDN’T BE ALLOWED TO RUN – GOT CAUGHT!!!”
The plot in question, also known as Obamagate, is tied to a statement made by John Ratcliffe, Director of National Intelligence. On Sept. 29, 2020, Radcliffe said this:
“In late July 2016, U.S. intelligence agencies obtained insight into Russian intelligence analysis alleging that U.S. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had approved a campaign plan to stir up a scandal against U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump by tying him to Putin and the Russians’ hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The IC [Intelligence Committee] does not know the accuracy of this allegation or the extent to which the Russian intelligence analysis may reflect exaggeration or fabrication.”
As stated in the claim, the intelligence came from Russian sources and could not be verified by members of the United States Intelligence Committee. This information was available to the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Russian election interference and was not included in the final report. In that report, both Republicans and Democrats concluded that there were verifiable Russian attempts to interfere with America’s elections.
Notably, members of the US Intelligence community were against this disclosure by Ratcliffe as they felt it was counterproductive and undermined the integrity of U.S. intelligence operations. By giving unverified claims by the Kremlin weight, it gives Russia unprecedented influence over the United States. It is worth noting that Ratcliffe is a former Republican Congressman who was appointed by President Trump into the Director of National Intelligence role despite having very little foreign policy or intelligence experience.
In the Senate Intelligence Committee report, the bipartisan committee concluded that not only did Russia interfere with America’s elections, but also the FBI and DNC did not react adequately to the visible threat. This resulted in the Russian theft and disclosure of private emails from the DNC.
In addition, in 2016, the FBI was investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to win the election, an operation known as “Crossfire Hurricane.” But that investigation was kept secret at the time. Then 11 days before the election, the FBI revealed its decision to reopen an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. That announcement might have cost her the presidency.
It’s also important to note that while there is bipartisan disagreement over whether Trump’s campaign actively colluded with Russian agents for the 2016 election, there is bipartisan agreement that Russia did interfere in that election with the goal of electing Trump. This interference continues for 2020.
Conclusion: Donald Trump appears to be using unverified Russian Intelligence, against the recommendation of career U.S. intelligence officials, to undermine former president Barack Obama and former vice president Joe Biden’s credibility. No U.S. intelligence source or Senator actively involved in the Russian interference investigation considered this allegation that Obama spied on Trump to be credible.