Trump team dis­putes me­dia ac­counts of Rus­sian CIA spy

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD -

WASH­ING­TON — The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion Tues­day dis­puted re­ports of a Rus­sian of­fi­cial who was re­cruited as a spy for the CIA and then evac­u­ated to the United States af­ter re­veal­ing i nfor­ma­tion about the Krem­lin’s in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion.

Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo, White House spokesman Ho­gan Gi­d­ley and the CIA chal­lenged re­ports that ap­peared in The New York Times, CNN and else­where about a Rus­sian of­fi­cial with high-level ac­cess who pro­vided the U.S. with valu­able in­tel­li­gence for years un­til he was abruptly pulled from the coun­try.

“Suf­fice it to say that the re­port­ing there is fac­tu­ally wrong,” Pom­peo said Tues­day, with­out spec­i­fy­ing what he was dis­put­ing. Pom­peo was head of the CIA at the start of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, soon af­ter the spy re­port­edly was brought to the United States.

The CIA sin­gled out CNN in a state­ment that dis­puted the net­work’s re­port­ing about what prompted the evac­u­a­tion. CNN cited an un­named source as telling them that the in­for­mant was re­moved in part be­cause of con­cerns about the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s mis­han­dling of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion and the pos­si­bil­ity that the Rus­sian of­fi­cial could be ex­posed.

“CNN’s nar­ra­tive that the Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence Agency makes life- or­death de­ci­sions based on any­thing other than ob­jec­tive anal­y­sis and sound col­lec­tion is sim­ply false,” said CIA Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Af­fairs Brittany Bramell. “Mis­guided spec­u­la­tion that the pres­i­dent’s han­dling of our nation’s most sen­si­tive i ntel­li­gence, which he has ac­cess to each and ev­ery day, drove an al­leged ex­fil­tra­tion op­er­a­tion is in­ac­cu­rate.”

Gi­d­ley also sin­gled out the CNN re­port as “so wrong” and slammed an NBC re­port that pur­ported to say where the spy lived.

“For the me­dia, the hypocrisy they have is so egre­gious to come out and try and say that this pres­i­dent is putting lives in dan­ger with the way he han­dles in­for­ma­tion, clas­si­fied or not,” he said on Fox News. “When they are the ones that ac­tu­ally go to this per­son’s house with a video cam­era, re­veal­ing where this per­son lives, po­ten­tially their iden­tity and that of their fam­ily.”

The Times said the of­fi­cial was re­cruited decades ago, advanced through the ranks of the govern­ment and even­tu­ally held an in­flu­en­tial po­si­tion and was able to con­firm that Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin or­dered the cam­paign to in­flu­ence the U.S. po­lit­i­cal cam­paign to fa­vor Trump.

The paper said the of­fi­cial was one of the CIA’s “most im­por­tant — and highly pro­tected — as­sets” un­til the end of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion when the Amer­i­cans be­gan to worry about his safety be­cause news me­dia cov­er­age of the elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence risked ex­pos­ing him to the Krem­lin.

It said the in­for­mant at first refused to be ex­tracted, cit­ing fam­ily con­cerns, which prompted fear at the CIA about whether the per­son was trust­wor­thy. But months later, af­ter more me­dia cov­er­age, he agreed and was taken to the United States.

Krem­lin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was dis­mis­sive of the re­ports and the in­flu­ence of an of­fi­cial he iden­ti­fied by name. He said the per­son was fired sev­eral years ago and did not have a high-rank­ing po­si­tion in the Rus­sian govern­ment.

U.S. me­dia re­ports to the con­trary, he told re­porters, are “pulp fic­tion.”

MLADEN ANTONOV/GETTY-AFP 2018

Krem­lin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called U.S. me­dia re­ports “pulp fic­tion.”

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