White House Rips CNN Report On Spy’s Extraction From Russia, Issues Dire Warning
The White House on Tuesday blasted CNN for a now-mostly debunked report claiming the CIA recalled a high-level spy from Russia after President Trump supposedly “mishandled” classified material.
“CNN’s reporting is not only incorrect, it has the potential to put lives in danger,” Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.
CNN, meanwhile, stands by its reporting from reporter Jim Sciutto — a former Obama administration official — even though the Central Intelligence Agency condemned his report as “misguided” and “simply false.”
“CNN’s narrative that the Central Intelligence Agency makes life-or-death decisions based on anything other than objective analysis and sound collection is simply false,” CIA Director for Public Affairs Brittany Bramell said in a statement.
“Misguided speculation that the President’s handling of our nation’s most sensitive intelligence — which he has access to each and every day — drove an alleged exfiltration operation is inaccurate,” she added.
According to CNN’s report, the U.S. pulled a spy from Moscow in 2017, partly because Trump officials had “repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source as a spy.”
Sciutto said the decision extract the spy “occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. The intelligence, concerning ISIS in Syria, had been provided by Israel.”
The disclosure “prompted intelligence officials to renew earlier discussions about the potential risk of exposure,” CNN reported.
But the New York Times put out a piece late Monday that shot holes in CNN’s story, saying CIA officials “made the arduous decision in late 2016 to offer to extract the source from Russia” — weeks before Trump took office.
“Former intelligence officials said there was no public evidence that Mr. Trump directly endangered the source, and other current American officials insisted that media scrutiny of the agency’s sources alone was the impetus for the extraction,” the Times wrote.
The Times said the spy at first refused to be extracted citing family concerns, but after the CIA “pressed again months later after more media inquiries” endangered the spy’s anonymity, he acquiesced.
“Other holes surfaced in CNN’s reporting,” Fox News reported. “Commentator Aaron Mate pointed out in a Twitter thread that several major news organizations had previously cited a high-level official in the Russian government as a source — suggesting that the intelligence community itself, not Trump, had compromised the spy.”
For example, The Washington Post reported in June 2017 of “‘sourcing deep inside the Russian government’ — so deep that it purportedly ‘captured Putin’s specific instructions’ to launch a pro-Trump influence campaign,” Mate noted.
And the Times reported in August 2018 of “anonymous intel officials complaining that their ‘vital Kremlin informants have largely gone silent.'” But “if these Kremlin informants are so vital, why are U.S. intel officials talking about them?” Mate asked.
Daniel Hoffman, a retired CIA station chief with deep expertise on Russia and a Fox News contributor, faulted the intelligence community for the information leaking out in the first place.
“Who is divulging this information and why are they doing it? That is not the way an intelligence officer should behave, even a retired one,” Hoffman said Tuesday. “It risks our sources and methods, and it risks those behind enemy lines.”