Central Intelligence Agency director met with Russian spy chief amid 2018 election concerns
- Author: Anthony Vega Feb 01, 2018,
Feb 01, 2018, 0:42
US and Russian officials confirmed talks between intelligence counterparts had occurred but would not specify which actors were present.
Russia's ambassador to the United States had earlier confirmed that Sergei Naryshkin, the head of the foreign intelligence service SVR, was in Washington in recent days to meet with US officials about terrorism and other matters.
The meeting raised eyebrows for three reasons: It was announced by Russia's ambassador and reported on by the Soviet news agency TASS before it was reported by anyone in the USA; the main attendee was supposed to be barred from the country; and current and former US intelligence officials told the Post they can't remember so many Russian spy and security officials meeting with U.S.at once.
USA intelligence agencies have accused the FSB - considered Russia's main domestic intelligence agency - and the GRU - the Russian military's intelligence arm - of being behind the cyberhacks of US political parties and activists.
Naryshkin was appointed head of the SVR by Russian President Vladimir Putin in September, 2016.
"Of course, we consider joint work this year, during the FIFA World Cup finals", said Russia's ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov speaking on Russian TV channel Rossiya 1.
"Sergey Naryshkin was here [in the United States]".
However, the meeting has also raised pointed questions on the left, with Democrats wondering how a sanctioned spy chief got into the USA and amid ongoing frustrations over how President Donald Trump handled Russian Federation sanctions for its interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Russia's USA ambassador, Anatoly Antonov, said Naryshkin traveled to the US for the talks, according to CNN.
There is now friction between the operational elements of the U.S. intelligence community, who want to step up action to punish and deter what they see as a rising threat from Russian Federation, and the White House, which is looking for ways to fix the U.S. -Russia relationship, according to current and former U.S. officials. At the time, Naryshkin was the chair of the Duma, Russia's parliament.
Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday also demanded to know why Naryshkin, who is on the sanctions list, was allowed to enter the United States.
Naryshkin is now under sanctions imposed by the USA under the Obama administration for his alleged role in Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea. "So which other sanctioned Russian Federation intelligence agency figures has the Trump administration let into our country?"
News of the meeting is likely to stoke controversy about the Trump administration's relationship with Russian Federation.
"I can't recall any time in the last 15 years" that all three Russian agency chiefs were in the USA capital at the same time, Steven Hall, a former CIA station chief in Moscow, told RFE/RL. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the minority leader, told reporters. The United States and Russian Federation do occasionally share information about threats to each other's countries, but it is not a robust process and doesn't compare to the close cooperation the United States has with its Western allies. Pompeo had on Monday told the BBC he believes that Russian Federation will seek to interfere in November's mid-term elections. "I haven't seen a significant decrease in their activity", he said.
"Which other sanctioned Russian intelligence agency figures has the Trump administration let into our country and, most importantly, is his visit why the Trump administration chose to forgo sanctions?"