Reid letter scrutinized



A letter written by Harry Reid when he was still the Senate Democratic leader is back in the news.

On Aug. 27, 2016, during the presidential campaign, CIA Director John Brennan met with the congressional “gang of eight”—an informal term for congressional leaders who are briefed on intelligence matters from time to time as part of the executive branch keeping legislators up to speed. Reid was one of the group.

Afterward, Reid wrote a letter to the FBI which may have been the first document in which a Democrat suggested there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. The letter was leaked to the New York Times and became a fleeting issue in the campaign.

On May 12, the Unification Church newspaper in D.C., the Washington Times, reported that Brennan’s aides now say the CIA director asked Reid not to write the letter. “When Senator Reid asked Brennan whether he could reference this information in the letter to Comey, Brennan said ’no,’ as the intelligence was being tightly controlled and he was worried that the letter would get out into the public,” the Times quoted Brennan’s deputy chief of staff saying. “Brennan told him that FBI Director] Comey had been fully briefed on the intelligence and if he wanted to, it would be better to talk to him about it in a secure manner when he returned to D.C. instead of putting it in a letter.”

Reid later told the authors of the book Russian Roulette that he believed Brennan wanted to get the information out to the public and intended Reid to help do it. Brennan aide Nick Shapiro called that inaccurate.

The incident showed the difficulty leakers have controlling the information they put out into the political bloodstream. When Reid kept pushing the Russian scenario, the New York Times published a story that trivialized the notion of Russian interference in the election, upsetting the Nevadan.