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In rare public statement, CIA calls CNN claim Trump compromised Russia spy ‘simply false’

President Donald Trump speaks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office, Wednesday, May 10, 2017, at the White House in Washington, D.C. (Shealah Craighead/The White House/Flickr)
September 11, 2019

The Central Intelligence Agency is disputing CNN’s claims they had to extract a Russian spy compromised by President Donald Trump.

CIA sources have denied CNN’s reporting and White House sources have said the allegations could put other people in danger. In a statement reported by Fox News, the CIA Director of Public Affairs Brittney Bramell said “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.”

The story, originally reported by CNN’s Jim Sciutto, detailed a 2017 CIA mission to extract its highest level connection to the Russian Kremlin after President Donald Trump reportedly discussed classified information with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Sciutto’s story referred to allegations by an anonymous source “directly involved in the matter” and “five sources who served in the Trump administration” that were also unnamed.

The story described then-CIA director Mike Pompeo’s advice to extract the spy, who had been in place for a decade. CNN said the decision was made at a time when the intelligence community believed Trump was mishandling classified information.

White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham similarly criticized the CNN story saying it is “not only incorrect, it has the potential to put lives in danger.”

Later updates of the CNN story included both Brammell and Grisham’s responses, though Pompeo reportedly declined to comment.

Sciutto previously worked in former President Barrack Obama’s administration before joining CNN.

A New York Times report of the same story seemed to partly conflict with CNN’s timeline of an extraction effort for the spy in May of 2017. In its reporting, the New York Times said the decision to pull the spy came at the end of 2016, before Trump took office.

“Officials worried about safety made the arduous decision in late 2016 to offer to extract the source from Russia. The situation grew more tense when the informant at first refused,” the New York Times reported.

Only after an initial refusal for extraction did the CIA source eventually agree to an escape plan in 2017.

“Former intelligence officials said there was no public evidence that Mr. Trump directly endangered the source,” the New York Times wrote. “And other current American officials insisted that media scrutiny of the agency’s sources alone was the impetus for the extraction.”

Georgia Republican Rep. Doug Collins also called the CNN’s reporting into question during a separate Fox News interview Tuesday.

“I really question whose side CNN is on,” Collins, the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee said in the interview. “To put this out at this time and to put it in such a way that the CIA had to come out and respond to this is, really, a disturbing part.”

In the interview, Collins suggested investigating CNN for its reporting.

“I think that it needs to be investigated, but with the CIA coming out like it has, then that’s something we need to look at,” he said.

It is not yet clear what action Collins is prescribing in investigating CNN’s reporting. Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y leads the committee Collins is on has maintained impeachment pressure on Trump throughout investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.

Later on in the Fox News interview, Collins criticized Nadler’s planned votes on procedures for an impeachment inquiry into President Trump and said Nadler is “not being truthful to the American people.”

American Military News has reported on outbursts during presidential events by CNN reporter Jim Acosta and prior conflicts between Trump and the network he has called “fake news.”