After numerous CIA officials expressed concern about Director Mike Pompeo’s close ties to President Donald Trump to The Washington Post, the CIA dismissed the story as “ridiculous.”
Confirmed not long after Trump’s inauguration, Pompeo has been overseeing the Counterintelligence Mission Center, a role that puts him close to the FBI’s ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
The center has followed the investigation closely, and it tipped off the FBI about potential collusion between Russian agents and Trump’s campaign, according to The Post.
But now, CIA officials who spoke to the Post have started to worry that Pompeo – who once said Russia’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election was “no news” and part of a pattern – could be tested by his ties to Trump. The center, which is pursuing information about the election interference, reports directly to Pompeo.
“People have to watch him,” an unnamed CIA official told The Post. “It’s almost as if he can’t resist the impulse to be political.”
But Director of the CIA Office of Public Affairs Dean Boyd told Business Insider that Boyd decided to oversee the CIMC to “strengthen counterintelligence mechanisms and safeguards at CIA” and crack down on “dangerous leaks.”
Boyd also throughly shot down assertions that the CIA was leading the charge in the Russia probe. “The FBI and Special Counsel’s office are leading the law enforcement investigation into the Russia matter – not CIA,” said Boyd. Boyd insisted the CIA would execute all of its duties in regard to the investigation “relentlessly.”
A second official told the Post that many at the agency were concerned that “if you were passing on something too dicey” to Pompeo, “he would go to the White House with it,” but the CIA took issue with that as well.
“The CIA is not authorized to and shall not engage in any intelligence activity, including dissemination of information to the Executive Office of the President, for the purpose of affecting the political process in the United States,” wrote Boyd.
But Pompeo has had a closer relationship with the president than other top intelligence officials do, according to The Post, and his publicly expressed views mirror many of the White House’s official stances on issues such as North Korea, Russia’s role in Syria, and leak prevention.
“It is always a balancing act between a director’s access to the president and the need to protect CIA’s sensitive equities,” John Sipher, a former senior CIA official, told The Post. “Pompeo clearly has a more difficult challenge in maintaining that balance than his predecessors given the obvious concerns with this president’s unique personality, obsession with charges against him, lack of knowledge and tendency to take impulsive action.”
Update: This story has been changed to reflect comments from the CIA.