Attorney General William Barr has ordered an investigation into the origins and conclusions of the CIA assessment of President Donald Trump’s campaign ties to Russia — but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo already did that shortly after the inauguration.
Pompeo conducted a personal review of the CIA’s findings shortly after taking over as the spy agency’s director in 2017, and ultimately found no evidence that analysts had faced political pressure to determine that Russia had tried to get Trump elected, reported Politico.
Three sources familiar with the matter said Pompeo grilled and challenged analysts on their findings and their work with the FBI to investigate the 2016 election, but ultimately found no evidence of any wrongdoing.
“This wasn’t just a briefing,” said one source. “This was a challenging back and forth, in which Pompeo asked the officers tough questions about their work and how they determined Putin’s specific objectives.”
Pompeo and his deputies never gave any indication to lawmakers, even privately, that the CIA had acted improperly or drawn inaccurate conclusions about Russia’s efforts to elect Trump.
The intelligence community’s assessment about Russia was also reaffirmed by special counsel Robert Mueller and the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee.
But the attorney general still has appointed John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, to examine Trump’s denials of Russian influence and his claims that his campaign was targeted by biased investigators and analysts.
Legal and intelligence experts said the Justice Department doesn’t have the background or training to judge the quality of intelligence analysis, and they worried that Barr’s probe would undermine efforts to gather that type of data going forward.
“Because they’re prosecutors, when they come knocking on an analyst’s door and say, ‘We want to talk to you about your judgment,’ it has a chilling effect,” said Michael Morell, the former acting CIA director. “Analysts might think twice in the future about making a tough call.”