CNN on Monday reported that the CIA had decided to pull a highly placed spy out of Moscow because of concerns about President Donald Trump’s handling of sensitive information.
That would be damning for the president if it were true — but a CIA statement called the report “simply false” and “inaccurate.”
And even a New York Times report seems to be backing up the CIA.
The controversy started Monday, after CNN published a lengthy report about a spy for the United States who had to be spirited out of Moscow in 2017.
The second paragraph of the story by Jim Sciutto, CNN’s chief national security correspondent and a former Obama State Department official, made it clear where CNN thought the real danger was.
“A person directly involved in the discussions said that the removal of the Russian was driven, in part, by concerns that President Donald Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source as a spy,” the article said.
According to CNN, the decision to pull the spy was made shortly after Trump met in the Oval Office in May 2017 with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. In that meeting, Trump discussed classified information about Syria that had come from the Israeli government, CNN reported.
CIA statements in the article attacked the premise.
“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 public affairs director Brittany Bramell told the network, a rebuke Fox News called “extraordinary.”
“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,” Bramell said.
After CNN’s story appeared, the administration got support from what was likely an unexpected source.
The New York Times published an article that contained at least one key rebuttal to the CNN report.
The Times reported that the CIA had decided pull the spy out in “late 2016” — before Trump even took office — in large part because of media attention to allegations that Russia meddled in the 2016 election.
The spy refused to leave Moscow at the time, citing family concerns, The Times reported. That led some in the CIA to wonder if the spy was actually working for the American side at all, the outlet claimed.
At another point, The Times — which is no friend of the Trump administration — cited former intelligence officials rebutting the premise of the CNN piece.
According to The Times: “The decision to extract the informant was driven ‘in part’ because of concerns that Mr. Trump and his administration had mishandled delicate intelligence, CNN reported. But 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.”
In other words, it was the American media obsession with Russian “collusion” in the 2016 election — an obsession actively fed by the Democratic Party — that actually endangered the source
Meanwhile, Ryan Saavedra of The Daily Wire reported another intelligence source was critical of the CNN piece.
“In their fervor to blame President Trump for mishandling classified information, CNN potentially risked lives. They had multiple on-the-record quotes from Administration officials telling them their story was not only wrong, but irresponsible and dangerous, and CNN decided to run with it anyway,” the source said, according to Saavedra.
“…their story was not only wrong, but irresponsible and dangerous, and CNN decided to run with it anyway.” 2/2
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) September 10, 2019
Even in a media environment that’s opposed to the Trump administration, CNN’s antipathy toward the White House stands out.
In a December 2017 “exclusive,” for instance, it claimed the Trump presidential campaign had early access to hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee. As The Washington Post reported at the time, CNN had misreported a key date in its report.
The hacked documents were available to anyone in the public, not just the Trump campaign.
A CNN report in June 2017 accused Anthony Scaramucci, who served as a member of the Trump transition team prior to his brief stint as White House communications director, of having secret ties to a Russian investment fund, according to Politico.
That report had to be retracted.
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