Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) grilled the CIA director and director of national intelligence over President Donald Trump’s possible business and campaign ties to Russia.
The Oregon Democrat asked CIA director Mike Pompeo during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing why the president had not immediately fired national security adviser Mike Flynn after the White House counsel was notified that he was vulnerable to blackmail.
Pompeo declined to comment, and Wyden asked if he was aware of those concerns by then-acting Attorney General Sally Yates — which the senator said presented a global threat.
“The possibility of blackmail? I mean, blackmail by an influential military official — that has real ramifications for the global threat,” Wyden said. “This is not about the policy implication, this is about the national security advisor being vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians. The American people deserve to know that whether, in these extraordinary circumstances, the CIA kept them safe.”
Pompeo insisted the CIA had kept Americans safe, but he claimed not to be aware of the concerns Yates brought to the White House about Flynn’s foreign entanglements.
“I wasn’t part of any of those conversations,” Pompeo said. “I have no first-hand information with respect to the warning that was given, she didn’t make that warning to me.”
Wyden then turned to Dan Coats, director of national intelligence, to ask about the possibility that the Russian state-owned Rosneft oil company could take over a significant portion of U.S. oil infrastructure through a deal with the Venezuelan state-owned oil company PDVSA, which owns Citgo.
“How concerned are you that a Russian government oil company run by a (Vladimir) Putin crony could end up owning a significant percentage of U.S. oil refining capacity and what are you advising the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States about this?” Wyden said.
Coats told the senator he had no specific information on that transaction, and Wyden turned back to the acting FBI director to ask about Trump’s ties to Russian business interests.
“We hear stories about Deutsche Bank, Bank of Cyprus, shell companies, Moldova, the British Virgin Islands,” Wyden said, offering a glimpse at possible targets of the Senate committee’s investigation. “I’d like to get your sense, because I am over my time, Director McCabe, what should we be most concerned about with respect to illicit Russian money and its potential to be laundered on its way to the United States?”
McCabe told the senator he couldn’t speak about the investigation in a public setting, but he agreed those issues also concerned FBI investigators.
“They have traditionally and they do even more so today, as it becomes even easier to conceal the origin and the track and the destination and purpose of illicit money flows,” McCabe said. “As the exchange of information becomes more clouded in encryption and more obtuse, it becomes harder and harder to get to the bottom of those investigations that which should light on those issues.”