CIA Director Mike Pompeo has issued a statement denying a media report that intelligence officials are withholding sensitive security information from President Donald Trump because of fears it could be leaked.
The Wall Street Journal published an article Wednesday based on reports from unnamed past and current officials that certain intelligence was being kept from Trump because of concerns about his ties to Russia and the possibility that he might share sensitive information with the Kremlin. Trump’s national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, resigned Monday after intelligence officials revealed he had secretly discussed easing sanctions in a phone call with the Russian ambassador before Trump became president.
Some of the information withheld from the president has included details about how intelligence about foreign governments is gathered, the Journal reported.
The statement from Pompeo, a former Kansas representative who was confirmed as CIA head in January, said the agency mission is to “provide the president with the best intelligence possible. ... The CIA does not, has not, and will never hide intelligence from the president, period.”
“The Wall Street Journal article is dead wrong and impugns the integrity of thousands of professional intelligence officers by peddling gossip without citing a single example to support its claims,” Pompeo said.
A White House official and a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence had earlier refuted the Journal report.
But a column published Sunday in Observer by security expert John R. Schindler, “The Spy Revolt Against Trump Begins,” reported the same situation as the Journal. Driven by fears of the White House’s “inability to keep secrets,” some officials were withholding intelligence, he wrote. “Why risk your most sensitive information if the president may ignore it anyway?”
One unnamed National Security Agency official said the agency was “systematically” withholding some of the “good stuff” from the president, according to the Observer column.
The tension between Trump and the intelligence community appears to be increasing. Even before his presidency began, Trump largely ignored intelligence officials’ conclusion that Russian President Vladimir Putin engineered hacking of Democratic Party email and distribution of fake news damaging to Hillary Clinton in a bid to sway the election Trump’s way. Now Trump is incensed at leaks about Flynn’s secret sanction discussion and blames the leaks on the intelligence community.
At his press conference Thursday, he called the Flynn story “fake news” but said the leaks were “real.”
Trump’s next choice to be national security adviser, retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward, turned down the offer because the White House appears to be in turmoil, a friend told CNN. Harward called the offer a “shit sandwich,” the friend said.