National Security & Defense

Pompeo: Reports Claiming Trump’s Behavior Forced U.S. to Pull Spy from Russia Are ‘Materially Inaccurate’

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, D.C., March 15, 2019. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushed back Tuesday against reports that claimed President Trump’s handling of classified intelligence endangered a top CIA spy in Russia whom the U.S. was then forced to extract, calling them “materially inaccurate.”

CNN reported this week that the U.S. successfully removed a top-level Kremlin source from Russia due to concerns that Trump and his administration “repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence,” putting the spy at risk of being exposed.

“I’ve seen that reporting. The reporting is materially inaccurate,” Pompeo said at a joint press briefing with Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin. “And you should know, as the former CIA director, I don’t talk about things like this very often. It is only the occasions when there is something that I think puts people at risk or the reporting is so egregious as to create enormous risk to the United States of America that I even comment in the way that I just did, and I won’t say anything more about it.”

CNN claimed the decision to extract the spy from Russia came after Trump discussed “highly classified intelligence” regarding the ISIS presence in Syria with then-Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov in May of 2017.

Pompeo, who led the CIA at the time, reportedly told other U.S. officials that too much information was surfacing about the spy that could compromise his identity, prompting the 2017 extraction plan.

The New York Times also disputed the CNN report, saying ” 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 CIA pushed back on CNN’s reporting as well, calling the narrative “inaccurate.”

“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,” said Brittany Bramell, the agency’s director of public affairs. “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.”

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