The CIA Director Met With a DNC Hack Conspiracy Theorist Because Trump Told Him To

CIA Director Mike Pompeo held an hour-long meeting with a former intelligence official—who has denied Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election—because President Donald Trump told him to speak to the ex-official, according to reports.

Pompeo met with William Binney on October 24. Binney worked for the National Security Agency (NSA) for more than 30 years, but retired in 2001 and became a whistleblower.

Binney has disputed the official account reached by the U.S. intelligence community in January that Russia had interfered in the election in a bid to harm Hillary Clinton’s chances and help Trump win.

In particular, Binney and a group of other intelligence officials claimed that the hack and publication of thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC)—which the CIA, FBI and NSA agreed was perpetrated by Russian intelligence—was actually an internal leak by someone with access to the DNC’s computers.

Binney told The Intercept that Pompeo had told him that Trump advised the CIA director to meet with Binney if he “want[ed] to know the facts.”

1108_Mike_Pompeo_2 William Binney, a former U.S. intelligence official turned whistleblower, arrives to testify at the Bundestag commission investigating the role of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) in Germany in Berlin, Germany, on July 3, 2014. Adam Berry/Getty

The ex-NSA official told CNN that Pompeo began the meeting by saying: “The president told me I should talk to you.”

Read more: Russian government officials identified for Democratic National Committee election hacks

A spokesman for the CIA told The Intercept that the agency did not comment on the director’s schedule but claimed that “the director stands by, and has always stood by, the January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment.”

It is extremely unusual for a CIA director to meet with an ex-official like Binney, who has long criticized the intelligence community since leaving his post. And the fact that Pompeo reportedly met Binney after being urged to do so by Trump will likely spark concern among critics who see an erosion of the boundary between the executive and the intelligence community under the current president.

President Trump has consistently denied allegations of Russian interference in the election, dubbing the allegations “fake news” and saying he is the victim of a “witch hunt.”

Pompeo, who was nominated by Trump and took office three days after the president’s inauguration, appeared to support the president’s stance in a speech in October, when he claimed that the intelligence community had assessed that any Russian interference had not affected the outcome of the 2016 election. The CIA later issued a clarifying statement, saying that the “intelligence assessment with regard to Russian election meddling has not changed, and the director did not intend to suggest that it had.”

1108_Mike_Pompeo U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for the director of the CIA, Rep. Mike Pompeo is sworn in at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, DC, on January 12. Joe Raedle/Getty

The DNC email hack saw almost 20,000 emails dating from January 2015 to May 2016 leaked to and published by WikiLeaks in July 2016. The leaked emails including messages suggesting that the party leadership had attempted to sabotage the campaign of Bernie Sanders, who challenged Clinton for the Democratic nomination. WikiLeaks published a further batch of over 8,000 leaked emails in November 2016, days before the election.

Russian President Vladimir Putin denied any “state-level” involvement by his country in the hack, but said that “the important thing is the content [of the emails] that was given to the public.”

Binney and a group of ex-intelligence officials—calling themselves Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)—published a memo “for the president” in July that concluded that the DNC data “was leaked (not hacked) by a person with physical access to DNC computer.” (Some members of VIPS publicly opposed parts of the memo.)

Conspiracy theories about the DNC hack have gained popularity among right-wing political groups, including claims that the death of DNC staffer Seth Rich—who was shot in the back and died in July 2016, weeks before WikiLeaks published the emails—was somehow tied to the email leak.

Binney told The Intercept that he had mentioned Rich’s case during his meeting with Pompeo.

The ex-NSA official, who has been a regular guest on Fox News and is frequently cited by Breitbart News, told NBC News that Trump may have come across his views through his media appearances. “I think he probably saw me on those programs,” said Binney.

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