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Director: CIA isn’t hiding intelligence from Trump

Profile image for By Vivian Salama and Deb Riechmann
By Vivian Salama and Deb Riechmann

WASHINGTON — CIA director Mike Pompeo said Thursday that the agency is providing President Donald Trump with the best intelligence it can, disputing reports that the spy community is withholding information from the commander in chief.

“The CIA does not, has not, and will never hide intelligence from the president, period. We are not aware of any instance when that has occurred,” Pompeo said in a statement aimed at quelling reports that the intelligence community and Trump were in conflict.

He said news reports that the agency was keeping intelligence from the president are “dead wrong” and damage the “the integrity of thousands of professional intelligence officers.”

Pompeo’s statement came on the same day that a senior White House official said the administration had asked a New York-based private equity executive — Stephen Feinberg, co-founder of Cerberus Capital Management — to lead a review of the U.S. intelligence community.

Feinberg has been asked to make recommendations on improvements to efficiency and coordination between the various intelligence agencies, the official said. His position was not to become official until he completed an ethics review, said the official, who wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

However, Trump later appeared to back off the idea, saying somebody else might not be needed because it could be handled by Pompeo, FBI Director James Comey and Dan Coats, the president’s nominee to be director of national intelligence who has not yet been confirmed.

“They’re in position so I hope that we’ll be able to straighten that out without using anybody else,” Trump said at a news conference.

He said Feinberg was a “very talented man, very successful man” who has offered his services to the administration. “You know, it’s something we may take advantage of. But I don’t think we’re [going to] need that at all because of the fact that you know, I think that we are gonna be able to straighten it out very easily on its own.”

The news that Feinberg was being tapped to do an intelligence review drew complaints from Democrats.

Feinberg was among the economic advisers for Trump’s presidential campaign. Cerberus Capital Management, a firm with $30 billion in investments, is deeply rooted in the Republican establishment.

“While we must always be open to improving organization and coordination among intelligence agencies, taken in concert with the large number of troubling statements President Trump has made denigrating our nation’s intelligence professionals, I am extremely concerned that this appointment signals a desire by the administration to marginalize the role of the DNI or even take unprecedented steps to politicize intelligence operations,” said Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee.

The DNI is the director of national intelligence.