Trump asked CIA chief to meet with conspiracy theorist who believes DNC hack was an inside job
The conspiracy theorist in this case is a former NSA whistleblower who has some other former intel analysts on his side. He’s not a complete rando posting in the YouTube comments section. Still, the CIA, FBI, and NSA looked at the evidence on the hacking and concluded with high confidence that it was Russia that swiped the DNC emails and laundered them through Wikileaks. To my knowledge there’s not a single dissenter on that point anywhere within the government’s intelligence bureaus. Why, then, is Mike Pompeo taking meetings with a guy who’s out of the intel loop to listen to his personal theories about how the hack “really” happened?
Apparently because POTUS saw William Binney, the whistleblower, on — where else? — Fox News and insisted that he have a meeting with the director of the CIA. Laying aside the obvious objection to the president politicizing the intel process to suit his own ends, i.e. discrediting the idea of any Russian role in his victory, I’m fascinated to know why Pompeo felt he had to meet with Binney himself. Normally this sort of thing would, I imagine, be farmed out to low-level CIA analysts to take Binney’s information and send it through the appropriate channels. In this case, because of their intelligence pedigree, Binney and his colleagues may have had their own connections for getting an audience with middle-managers at the CIA or FBI. Failing all else, they published their findings on the DNC hack months ago so Pompeo and his deputies could have accessed the info at any time. The only reason the director of the CIA would deign to meet personally with a conspiracy theorist questioning the basic competence of his agency on the biggest story in national security, I assume, is because the president absolutely insisted on it. No middle-managers. The director himself, face to face with Binney. That’s how important discrediting the Russian-hack evidence is to POTUS. Important enough to tell the CIA how to do its job.
And so, on October 24, Pompeo took the meeting.
Binney, who has theorized that the theft and release of thousands of DNC emails was actually carried out by a DNC employee, told CNN that Pompeo began the meeting with him by saying, “The President told me I should talk to you.”
Intelligence sources told CNN that many people inside the CIA were very uncomfortable with the meeting. Binney said Pompeo concluded the meeting by telling him he would like Binney to meet with the FBI and the NSA as well.
If they’re uncomfortable now, wait until Trump tells Pompeo he needs to meet with Alex Jones to hear his theories about 9/11 and Obama’s birth certificate. More from The Intercept, which broke the story yesterday:
It is possible Trump learned about Binney and his analysis by watching Fox News, where Binney has been a frequent guest, appearing at least 10 times since September 2016. In August, Binney appeared on Tucker Carlson’s Fox show to discuss his assessment that the narrative of Russia hacking the DNC during the 2016 campaign is untrue, stating that “many people are emotionally tied to this agenda, to tie the Russians to President Trump.” Binney said he is not sure how Trump found out about his analysis.
However the meeting came about, the fact that Pompeo was apparently willing to follow Trump’s direction and invite Binney to discuss his analysis has alarmed some current and former intelligence officials.
“This is crazy. You’ve got all these intelligence agencies saying the Russians did the hack. To deny that is like coming out with the theory that the Japanese didn’t bomb Pearl Harbor,” said one former CIA officer.
Before you ask, yes, of course Binney mentioned Seth Rich to Pompeo during the meeting. It’s worth reading the entire Intercept piece if you can spare the time as it goes on to explain how even some members of Binney’s own group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, dispute his conclusions about the source of the DNC hack. This isn’t a case of whiz-kid techies finding something that the feds missed. This is the case of dissident ex-pros drawing inferences from available data that even other dissident ex-pros think are off-base. And still, it was enough to land Binney a face-to-face meeting with the head of the CIA because his conclusions happen to support the president’s political agenda.
Why would Pompeo risk his credibility inside and outside the agency by taking a meeting like this, knowing that Binney was likely to chatter about it to the media? Presumably Trump wasn’t prepared to fire him for refusing. Maybe the answer lies in this Axios piece from last month, naming Pompeo as a strong contender to replace Rex Tillerson when, not if, T-Rex heads off into retirement over the next few months. The conventional wisdom is that Nikki Haley is next in line but, according to Axios, Pompeo has done a skillful job of building a rapport with Trump. “Pompeo is one of the few in the administration who knows how to convey tough news to the president, and how to push back without turning DJT off,” Axios reported, noting that Trump is “quite comfortable” with him and speaks to him daily since Pompeo delivers his daily intel briefing. If Pompeo has his eye on the State job, the obvious answer when Trump asked if he was willing to humor Binney with a meeting was “For you, Mr President? Of course!”
Just one question. What are we to make of the fact that Pompeo apparently offered to set up meetings between Binney and the FBI and NSA as well? You can read that one of two ways. One: Pompeo was surprisingly impressed by Binney’s findings and wanted the other intel agencies to hear him out. Two: Pompeo knows how bad it looks that he took this meeting and is eager to make it appear normal by getting the FBI and NSA to sit down with Binney too. Place your bets.