AUBURN — Republican congressional hopeful Eric Brakey said in a Nov. 2 social media post that “the ‘intelligence community’ interfered with the 2016 election far more than Russia,” to weaken Donald Trump’s campaign.

The claim contradicts the findings in a bipartisan U.S. Senate report compiled in part by both of Maine’s U.S. senators that sharply criticizes Russia for its meddling.


U.S. Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who defeated Brakey in last year’s election to win a second term, said he doesn’t know what his former challenger is talking about.

While Russia had “a very sophisticated, wide-ranging and substantial” effort to hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton and help Trump, he said, American intelligence agencies did not try to influence the outcome of the race.

The National Intelligence Council in a January 2017 report concluded Russia made a large-scale effort in 2016 to influence the outcome of the American election in favor of Trump.

U.S. Sen. Angus King

Brakey, a former state senator, doesn’t buy it.

“There’s nothing to indicate Russian Facebook memes had any impact on the election itself,” he said Friday, insisting that American intelligence agencies themselves are a more serious problem.

To bolster his case that officials were working against the Republicans, Brakey cited as evidence text messages between Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, two officials with the FBI who were investigating Clinton’s email server, that included harsh comments about then-candidate Trump.

The comments didn’t become public until 2018.

Brakey also pointed to a number of things that happened in 2017, after the election, including criminal charges lodged against Trump’s national security adviser, the Mueller investigation, the disclosure of the Steele dossier and discussions among top officials about invoking the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office.

The “fatal flaw” of Brakey’s argument, King said, is that voters in 2016 knew nothing about the intelligence community’s concern about Trump.

“It’s hard to have a smoking gun if you don’t pull the trigger,” said King, who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee with Maine’s senior senator, Republican Susan Collins.

During the presidential campaign three years ago, the only public intervention by any intelligence-related organization came when the FBI director, James Comey, criticized Clinton’s handling of her government emails in the course of announcing she would not face any charges.

Near the end of the campaign, he reopened the probe briefly before once again clearing her.

Those comments, which King said many observers believe were “very damaging” to Clinton, were cited by Trump himself as a breach of a longstanding FBI policy of silence on such matters when he fired Comey in the spring of 2017.

King said there was “never a hint or leak” to the public that intelligence officials were looking into ties between Trump’s campaign and Russian operatives until after Election Day in 2016.

Brakey, who has posted many items on social media assailing America’s intelligence agencies, is one of three GOP contenders vying in a June 2020 primary for the chance to take on first-term U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Lewiston Democrat.

The other Republicans are Adrienne Bennett of Bangor, who served as press secretary for Gov. Paul LePage, and Dale Crafts of Lisbon, a former state legislator.

Eric Brakey Provided photo

Brakey, who lives in Auburn, has long questioned the role played by American’s intelligence agencies.

But in the past two months, after declaring his intention to seek his party’s backing, Brakey has turned up the volume of his criticism of the CIA, FBI and what he once called the “Deep State.”

On Nov. 1, Brakey said in a Facebook post that the “leaders of these unelected intelligence agencies (in other countries, we would call them ‘secret police’) aren’t even hiding their belief that they should be unaccountable to our elected officials.”

“If we don’t wake up and stop this,” he wrote, “Government of the People, by the People and for the People will perish from this Earth.”

The intelligence agencies, like most of the federal government, report to the president and his chosen director of national intelligence. The leaders of both the CIA and the FBI are chosen by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

There are two committees on Capitol Hill that have direct oversight over the country’s intelligence agencies, including the 15-member Senate Intelligence Committee that counts among its members both of Maine’s senators.

But Brakey tweeted Nov. 9 that “if we abolished the office of the presidency tomorrow, very little would change except for the abolishment of the illusion that We the People have direct say over the operations of the Executive Branch.”

“Nothing of substance changed under the last four presidents because they understood and accepted that they were figureheads – doing public relations for the Executive Branch, not leading it,” Brakey posted online.

He said Trump is “coming into so much conflict with executive branch agencies because he intends to lead, not do what he is told – and that is exactly WHY we elected him!”

“The CIA and FBI supposedly work for the President,” Brakey said in an Oct. 7 tweet, “but they are actively at war with the President. It begs the question: If they don’t answer to the President, who are they accountable to?”

King said he meets with intelligence officials regularly across the world, including in many dangerous spots.

“These are patriotic and idealistic Americans doing their duty,” he said.

King said he doesn’t see any sign of the coup that Brakey warns about.

“What I see is democracy,” he said.

Asked about Brakey’s tweets, Bennett said she prefers “facts to speculation.” She said she is looking forward to the results of prosecutor John Durham’s probe into the origins of the Russia investigation “so that the facts may be laid bare and we can judge for ourselves.”

A report from Durham, a respected Connecticut prosecutor, is expected within weeks.

Crafts did not respond to requests for comment.

A month ago, Collins and King endorsed a report by the Intelligence panel on “Russia’s Use of Social Media” during the 2016 race.

“This detailed, bipartisan report adds further incontrovertible proof to what we have long known to be true: Russia was relentless in its efforts to interfere in the 2016 election,” Collins said in a prepared statement.

She declined to comment on Brakey’s claim that U.S. intelligence did even more to interfere.


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