CIA Director Incorrectly Claims No Impact from Russian Interference
CIA Director Mike Pompeo claimed U.S. intelligence agencies “had concluded that Russian interference did not affect the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.” This conflicts with the January statement from U.S. intelligence agencies, which did not assess the impact of Russian activities on the outcome of the election.
The CIA has played a significant role in the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Along with being party to many of the broader intelligence community’s reports and briefings regarding that interference, the CIA and its leaders have taken actions individually as well.
The CIA reportedly began investigating the contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives after receiving intelligence from European agencies regarding those contacts. In April 2016, the CIA reportedly received “a tape recording of a conversation about money from the Kremlin going into the US presidential campaign” from “an intelligence agency of one of the Baltic States,” leading CIA Director John Brennan to create a task force of six intelligence agencies and government departments. On August 4, 2016, Brennan called Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s federal security service, to “warn him against further interference.”
On December 9, 2016, The Washington Post reported that a secret CIA assessment had concluded that Russia intervened in the 2016 election with the explicit aim of helping Trump win. According to the report, the conclusion reflected the “consensus” view of the intelligence community, and prompted President Barack Obama to direct the intelligence community to conduct a thorough review of what happened during the election. The Trump transition team, however, cast doubt on the assessment, releasing a statement saying, “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.”
Since Trump took office, however, his CIA Director, Mike Pompeo, has attempted to muddy the waters regarding the CIA and the broader intelligence community’s conclusions. On October 19, 2017, Pompeo falsely said that the “intelligence community’s assessment is that the Russian meddling that took place did not affect the outcome of the election.” (The intelligence community’s report does not take any position as to whether Russian interference affected the election’s results.) His inaccurate statement drew an immediate response not only from Democrats but also from the CIA itself, whose spokesman Dean Boyd said, “The intelligence assessment with regard to Russian election meddling has not changed, and the director did not intend to suggest that it had.”