CIA Director Mike Pompeo recently met – at the urging of President Donald Trump – with one of the principal deniers of Russian interference in the US election, according to multiple intelligence sources.
Trump apparently made the highly unusual request that Pompeo meet with the former National Security Agency employee and look into a theory that the leak of Democratic Party emails last year was an inside job rather than a cyberattack by Russian hackers.
William Binney, the former NSA employee-turned-whistleblower who circulated the conspiracy theory, confirmed to CNN that he met with Pompeo for about an hour on October 24 – despite the fact the intelligence community concluded early this year that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
The meeting was first reported by The Intercept.
The CIA responded to CNN’s inquiry about the meeting by saying that Pompeo “stands by and has always stood by the January 2017 intelligence community assessment” that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
Binney, who has theorized that the theft and release of thousands of DNC emails was actually carried out by a DNC employee, told CNN that Pompeo began the meeting with him by saying, “The President told me I should talk to you.”
Intelligence sources told CNN that many people inside the CIA were very uncomfortable with the meeting. Binney said Pompeo concluded the meeting by telling him he would like Binney to meet with the FBI and the NSA as well.
He said he told Pompeo, “the entire intelligence community needs to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth to the American public.”
Binney added: “I think he took it in.”
The President himself repeatedly questioned Russia’s involvement during the campaign. During the first presidential debate on September 26, 2016, Trump said, “I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that hacked the DNC.”
Trump continued, “I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed who weighs 400 pounds, OK?”
And Trump has continued to express doubts about Russian interference since taking office. During an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” he said, “If you don’t catch a hacker, OK, in the act, it’s very hard to say who did the hacking. With that being said, I’ll go along with Russia. Could’ve been China, could’ve been a lot of different groups.”
In October, Pompeo prompted a clarification from the CIA when he said in a speech that the US intelligence community determined that Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election did not affect its outcome. Pompeo had commented that “the intelligence community’s assessment is that the Russian meddling that took place did not affect the outcome of the election.”
Soon after Pompeo’s comment, the CIA issued a statement from spokesman Dean Boyd, who said, “the intelligence assessment with regard to Russian election meddling has not changed, and the director did not intend to suggest that it had.”
CNN’s Jennifer Rizzo contributed to this report.