CIA Director Muddles Agency’s Efforts To Relay Russia-Related Intel To White House

on May 21, 2018 in Langley, Virginia.
Gina Haspel prepares to speak while flanked by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence after she was sworn in as CIA director on May 21, 2018 in Langley, Virginia. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
September 23, 2020 8:58 a.m.

CIA Director Gina Haspel has reportedly been complicating efforts to deliver the intel her agency has gathered on Russia to the White House.

Politico reported on Wednesday that last year, Haspel ordered Courtney Elwood, CIA’s general counsel, to vet intel coming from analysts who track Russian activity before it can be forwarded to Trump and the White House. The move has reportedly led to a reduction in the amount of intel that ends up in front of President Donald Trump, who is infuriated by reports of the Kremlin’s election interference.

Current and former officials told Politico they were unsure whether the decline was because Elwood was deliberately holding up the intel or if the analysts have been holding back on their report submissions, fearing that they might get in trouble. Haspel “calls analysts liars all the time,” a former CIA official reportedly said.

However, whether or not the CIA director’s adverse response to her agency’s Russia work is rooted in a desire to please Trump is unclear. An official floated to Politico the possibility that she working to protect the CIA’s credibility because “she knows that they’re under a microscope.”

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CIA press secretary Timothy Barrett defended Haspel’s actions in a statement to Politico.

“She rightfully asks difficult questions and ensures intelligence is corroborated, double-checked, and then run through the wringer once more,” Barrett said. “Any suggestion of a political motive for how she leads this agency is misguided.”

The CIA’s scaling back of Russia intel to the White House comes amid Trump’s anger over the intelligence community’s findings that Russia boosted his 2016 campaign and is actively working to assist his 2020 reelection bid as well.

On Thursday, the President put FBI Director Chris Wray on blast for testifying to Congress that Russia was working to “denigrate” Democratic presidential candidate on Trump’s behalf.

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