A bombshell article in The Intercept reveals how Donald Trump is leaning on his own CIA director to discredit the Intelligence Community's assessment of Russian hacking into the DNC – and getting an assist from Fox News.
I’ve written extensively about Sean Hannity’s and Fox News' promotion of the debunked conspiracy theory that Seth Rich, a murdered DNC staffer, was the real culprit (not the Russians) in the leaking of DNC material to Wikileaks. But Tucker Carlson promoted a similarly questionable theory, without pointing fingers at any leaker, via a former NSA official named William Binney.
In its article published today, The Intercept reveals that Trump-appointed CIA Director Mike Pompeo was asked by Trump to explore Binney’s theory. Even though it has been vigorously disputed by some of his own colleagues, a group of former intelligence officials called Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
Or to put it another way, Fox News conspiracy theories have made their way from partisan opinion hosts like Hannity and Carlson right to the top of the CIA. According to The Intercept, Binney has appeared on Fox at least 10 times since September 2016. (The Intercept did not learn what prompted Trump to urge Pompeo to meet with Binney). From The Intercept's must-read report:
The analysis by Binney and his colleagues aligns neatly with Trump’s frequent public skepticism of the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 campaign to damage Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and help elect Trump. The declassified summary of a U.S. intelligence community report, based on the work of the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA and made public in early January before Trump’s inauguration, stated that “Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.” Trump has frequently raged against the accusation that he won the presidency thanks to help from the Russians, labeling the charge “fake news.”
The meeting raises questions about Pompeo’s willingness to act as an honest broker between the intelligence community and the White House, and his apparent refusal to push back against efforts by the president to bend the intelligence process to suit his political purposes. Instead of acting as a filter between Trump and the intelligence community, Pompeo’s decision to meet with Binney raises the possibility that right-wing theories aired on Fox News and in other conservative media can now move not just from conservative pundits to Trump, but also from Trump to Pompeo and into the bloodstream of the intelligence community.
Some senior CIA officials have grown upset that Pompeo, a former Republican representative from Kansas, has become so close to Trump that the CIA director regularly expresses skepticism about intelligence that doesn’t line up with the president’s views. Pompeo has also alienated some CIA managers by growing belligerent toward them in meetings, according to an intelligence official familiar with the matter.
There are other alarming indications that Trump lackeys are corrupting the intelligence process to suit his personal agenda:
In August, the Washington Post reported that Pompeo had taken the unusual step of having the CIA’s Counterintelligence Mission Center, which would likely play a role in any inquiries by the agency into Russian election meddling, report directly to him. That move has raised concerns within the agency that Pompeo is seeking to personally control the CIA’s efforts to investigate accusations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
More recently, at a Washington event in October, Pompeo said that U.S. intelligence had determined that Moscow’s intervention hadn’t impacted the outcome of the election. He was quickly criticized for the comments, and the CIA had to issue a clarification saying that the intelligence assessment on Russia hadn’t been altered.
While Pompeo seems to be actively taking Trump’s side on contentious issues like Russian collusion, Dan Coats, the former Republican senator who now serves as director of national intelligence, has been largely missing in action. Coats has been reluctant to push for an aggressive Trump-Russia investigation, according to a source familiar with the matter.
At Pompeo’s request, Binney agreed to also meet with the NSA and FBI to discuss his theory.
Watch Carlson’s lapdog interview with Binney below, from the August 14, 2017 Tucker Carlson Tonight.