Quiet visits to Washington by three top Russian intelligence chiefs raise eyebrows

Posted February 03, 2018

In the midst of broader concerns about the Trump administration's willingness to adopt a harsh stance toward Russia and Vladimir Putin-and its decision not to enforce sanctions on key Russian officials despite an overwhelming congressional vote in favor-Schumer and other Democrats are concerned about the substance of any meetings that took place between senior US intelligence officials and their Russian counterparts. Naryshkin was blacklisted in 2014 as part of the USA response to Russia's seizure of Crimea from Ukraine.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo said Thursday there was nothing "untoward" about his meeting with top Russian spy chiefs, saying that even though Moscow remains an adversary, ignoring chances to cooperate on security issues would endanger American lives. "It was Russian bots that were spinning out the hashtag 'Schumer shutdown, ' trying to help Trump politically win that fight, you would expect they will be aligned with them this fall".

The U.S. intelligence official told Reuters that "it was no accident that Russia made a decision to publicize" the visit after years of not disclosing meetings between U.S. and Russian intelligence officials.

The meeting wasn't noticed at the time but was announced by Moscow's ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, on Tuesday - the meeting the same day that the White House announced that further Russian sanctions passed overwhelmingly by Congress would not be enacted.

Congressional panels and Special Counsel Robert Mueller are investigating Russia's alleged interference and possible collusion between Moscow and Trump's election campaign.

On Tuesday, the Russian embassy issued tweets dismissing Pompeo's remarks and reiterating Moscow's disavowal of the hacking campaign. He has been on a U.S. Treasury Department list of sanctioned individuals "for involvement in the situation in Ukraine" since 2014, when he was chairman of the Duma.

A US intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, accused Moscow of disclosing the visit partly to fuel political discord in Washington over investigations of a Russian interference campaign that is rankling President Donald Trump and some of his fellow Republicans. "The target was sowing discord in United States", said the official, who also noted all administrations have met with Russian intel officials for intel-sharing and outreach. "We sanctioned the head of their foreign intelligence, and then the Trump Administration invites him to waltz through our front door", Schumer said.

Indeed, there is a very long history of United States attempts to cooperate with Russian intelligence services, said Andrew Weiss, a vice president of studies at the Carnegie Endowment who oversees research into Russia and Eurasia.

"Nobody in either party trusts this president to represent American national interests when it comes to Russia", Brown said.

Pompeo also stressed that when these meetings do take place, "we cover very hard subjects in which American and Russian interests do not align". Pompeo had on Monday told the BBC he believes that Russian Federation will seek to interfere in November's mid-term elections. "We vigorously defend America in these encounters and pull no punches - we never will".

"When those meetings take place, you and the American people should rest assured that we cover very hard subjects in which American and Russian interests do not align", he added.

The Russians "consider it a big political win if they can do it".