Former CIA Director John Brennan is not impressed.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

October surprises started early this year, when President Trump made the late-night announcement last week that he tested positive for COVID-19. But that hasn't stopped the White House and its allies at Fox News from trying to manufacture a counter-surprise of their own, Alex Kotch, an investigative journalist with the Center for Media and Democracy, reports.

It all began Tuesday evening, when Trump authorized the declassification of documents pertaining to the investigation into Russia's election interference in 2016. The release was intended to cast doubt on the widely-accepted conclusion by the intelligence community that Moscow waged a disinformation campaign in Trump's favor by citing notes written by former CIA Director John Brennan. The memo detailed how Brennan had briefed then-President Barack Obama about a Russian security service report that alleged then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had signed off on a "proposal from one of her foreign policy advisers to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by the Russian security service."

Fox News personalities have attempted to make a big deal about this report, calling it evidence of a conspiracy against Trump. But in fact, "Republicans and Democrats had previously rejected this Russian chatter as likely disinformation intended to deflect from Moscow's own hacking operation targeting the Democratic National Committee," Politico reports. What's more, Brennan himself has since slammed current intelligence chief John Ratcliffe for selectively declassifying the heavily redacted CIA memo, calling it "designed to advance the political interests of Donald Trump and Republicans who are aligned with him."

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Brennan also pointed out that "if, in fact, what the Russians were alleging — that Hillary was trying to highlight the reported connections between Trump and the Russians — if that was accurate and a big if, there is nothing at all illegal about that."

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Jeva Lange

Jeva Lange was the executive editor at She formerly served as The Week's deputy editor and culture critic. She is also a contributor to Screen Slate, and her writing has appeared in The New York Daily News, The Awl, Vice, and Gothamist, among other publications. Jeva lives in New York City. Follow her on Twitter.