(Listen to the audio of investigative reporter Seymour Hersh blasting intelligence officials for fabricating the story that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. WARNING: The interview contains obscenities and foul language. Listener discretion is advised.)
WASHINGTON – The entire Russia collusion story was a fiction made up by intelligence chiefs who lied about President Trump, and lied to President Obama and the media, according to a person on a just-released audio recording who is almost certainly legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh.
Further, the person who recorded the audio is almost certainly financier Ed Butowsky, who hired private investigator Rod Wheeler to investigate the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich last July.
Wheeler filed a defamation lawsuit against Butowsky and Fox News on Tuesday over a story the network retracted about the investigation.
The text of Wheeler’s lawsuit described a conversation between Hersh and Butowsky in which the reporter said: “I have somebody on the inside who will go and read a file for me. And I know this person is unbelievably accurate and careful. He’s a very high level guy.”
Related story: “Bombshell dropped in Seth Rich murder mystery”
WND did some digging and discovered those identical words appear on the audio recording, apparently verifying they were spoken by Hersh and taped by Butowsky. Judging by a report in the Washington Post, the conversation happened during, or before, February.
The audio was first posted late Tuesday afternoon on a site called Big League Politics then went viral after it was linked on Twitter by WikiLeaks.
Hersh, himself, acknowledged speaking with Butkowsy, during an NPR interview Monday in which he referred to the Seth Rich angle as gossip and said Butowsky “took two and two and made 45 out of it.”
But Hersh did not disavow what he said about the Russia collusion narrative.
On the recording, the reporter called the entire story that the Trump presidential campaign and transition team colluded with Russia “a Brennan operation.”
Hersh accused former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and current NSA Director Michael Rogers of peddling “disinformation” and misleading Obama and the press.
And he added, “Trump’s not wrong to think they all f—ing lied about him.”
Hersh suggested Rogers falsely told the press that American intelligence agencies even knew who in the Russian military intelligence service “leaked it,” in apparent reference to the hacked Democratic emails that embarrassed the Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign.
He also dismissively called Brennan an “a—hole,” Rogers a “f—ing moron” and Clapper “sort of a better guy but not a rocket scientist.”
Hersh ascribed a simple motive to the subterfuge by the top spies: They wanted to keep their jobs by assuring Clinton won the presidential election.
“With Trump they’re gone. You know, they’re done – they’re going to live on their pensions, they’re not going to make it.”
Hersh also explained why the story came to dominate the news cycle, portraying his colleagues in the establishment media as, essentially, too gullible.
“I worked at the New York Times for years and they have smart guys but they are totally beholden on sources. If the president or the head of the (unintelligible) tells them something they actually believe it,” he said.
And, speaking of those highly placed sources, he said, “These guys run the f—ing Times.”
Hersh won the Pulitzer Prize in 1970 for exposing the My Lai massacre and has become one of the nation’s best-known and most-accomplished investigative reporters.
According to his biography in the New Yorker, in addition to Hersh’s Pulitzer, his journalism and publishing awards include five George Polk Awards, two National Magazine Awards, and more than a dozen other prizes for investigative reporting.
Hersh made on-the-record comments critical of the Russia collusion story to The Intercept on Jan. 25, flatly saying he did not believe the assessment by the intelligence community that Russian President Vladimir Putin orchestrated a hacking campaign designed to elect Trump.
He also blasted the major media for uncritically accepting the claims by Obama’s intelligence officials as facts.
“The way they (the media) behaved on the Russia stuff was outrageous,” Hersh said two days after Trump was inaugurated. “They were just so willing to believe stuff.”
Hersh told the Intercept that if he had been covering the story, “I would have made Brennan into a buffoon. A yapping buffoon in the last few days. Instead, everything is reported seriously.”
The reporter zeroed in on questionable aspects of the intelligence assessment that would become highly relevant when Brennan and Clapper finally testified before congressional committees months after the inauguration of Trump.
“What does an assessment mean?,” asked Hersh. “It’s not a national intelligence estimate. If you had a real estimate, you would have five or six dissents. One time they said 17 agencies all agreed. Oh really? The Coast Guard and the Air Force — they all agreed on it?”
He continued, “And it was outrageous and nobody did that story. An assessment is simply an opinion. If they had a fact, they’d give it to you. An assessment is just that. It’s a belief.”
Hersh’s critique of the flimsiness of the intelligent assessment parallels the analysis made by a prominent former CIA analyst after Clapper revealed during a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on May 8, that it was not true that all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies had compiled, and agreed with, the findings.
As WND reported, Clapper not only revealed that just three agencies, the NSA, FBI and CIA, were involved in the assessment.
He also revealed that those agencies did not do the assessment themselves.
The analysis and conclusion were made by an irregular and hand-picked panel of what were called experts, who actually may have been, according to former CIA officer Fred Fleitz, highly politicized.
Fleitz served in U.S. national security positions for 25 years at the CIA, DIA, Department of State and the House Intelligence Committee staff.
As someone intimately familiar with the inner workings of the intelligence community, Fleitz penned an article for Fox News on May 12, that spelled out what really happened.
He had written previously that when the U.S. Intelligence Community issued an ‘Intelligence Community Assessment’ (ICA) on January 6, 2017, that found Russia deliberately interfered in the 2016 presidential election to benefit Trump’s candidacy, he “was suspicious because it reached unusually clear judgments on a politically explosive issue with no dissenting views.”
Fleitz was then surprised to hear Clapper explain in his May testimony that two dozen or so “seasoned experts” were “handpicked” from the contributing agencies and drafted the ICA “under the aegis of his former office” (the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.)
Wrote Fleitz, “This process drastically differed from the Intelligence Community’s normal procedures.”
Describing just how unusual that was, he said, “Hand-picking a handful of analysts from just three intelligence agencies to write such a controversial assessment went against standing rules to vet such analyses throughout the Intelligence Community within its existing structure.”
Furthermore, “The idea of using hand-picked intelligence analysts selected through some unknown process to write an assessment on such a politically sensitive topic carries a strong stench of politicization.”
Fleitz also noted that former FBI Director James Comey had testified that the report’s conclusion of Russian interference was based on logic, not evidence.
“So we now know,” surmised the former CIA officer, “this was a subjective judgment made by a hand-picked group of intelligence analysts.”
“One has to ask how these hand-picked analysts were picked. Who picked them? Who was excluded?”
Fleitz called it a major problem that “the process gave John Brennan, CIA’s hyper-partisan former director, enormous influence over the drafting of the ICA.”
“Given Brennan’s scathing criticism of Mr. Trump before and after the election, he should have had no role whatsoever in the drafting of this assessment. Instead, Brennan probably selected the CIA analysts who worked on the ICA and reviewed and approved their conclusions.”
In other words, it seems Fleitz thought it not impossible that Brennan rigged the report to arrive at the conclusion he wanted.
Which makes Brennan’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on May 24, all the more relevant, because even though he testified he saw no evidence of collusion, the former CIA director admitted it was he who set in motion the FBI’s investigation into whether the Trump team colluded with the Russians.
Fleitz wants Congress to investigate the spies. He wrote:
“The unusual way that the January 6, 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment was drafted raises major questions as to whether it was rigged by the Obama administration to produce conclusions that would discredit the election outcome and Mr. Trump’s presidency. The House and Senate Intelligence Committees therefore should add investigations of whether this ICA was politicized to their investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.”