CNN’s Brian Stelter and Jim Sciutto accused Trump supporters and conservative media Sunday of trying to “tear down” a CNN report that the CIA extracted a Kremlin spy because of concerns about President Donald Trump’s handling of classified information.
The CNN correspondents ignored in their rush to blast the conservative press that it was reporting from The New York Times and Washington Post that undercut CNN’s claim.
Scuitto’s report on Sept. 8 revealed the CIA operation to exfiltrate the Kremlin mole. The story would have been explosive on its own, but Sciutto added an additional wrinkle. He reported that U.S. intelligence officials made the decision to rescue the spy following a May 2017 meeting that Trump had with Russian government officials. U.S. officials were worried Trump might disclose sensitive information to his Russian counterparts, according to Sciutto, a former Obama administration official.
The Times and Post offered a different view based on their own sources.
The newspapers reported on Sept. 9 that the CIA first offered to extract the spy from Russia in 2016, as media scrutiny picked up about the intelligence community’s assessment of Russian meddling in the election. NBC News had reported on Dec. 14, 2016 that sources inside the Kremlin provided intelligence that Russian President Vladimir Putin directed email hacks.
The Times and Post sources also disputed CNN’s reporting that the CIA offered to extract the spy again in 2017 because of concerns about Trump.
Stelter and Sciutto left that aspect of the story out of their analysis Sunday on “Reliable Sources.”
“Many pro-Trump allies and commentators tried to tear down that reporting and say it might not be true. Do you stand by that reporting now a week later?” Stelter asked Sciutto.
“One hundred percent,” Sciutto replied. “We would not have gone there if we didn’t trust the source’s involvement, information and level of involvement in that those discussions.”
Sciutto took a shot at Fox News later in the segment and told Stelter that the pro-Trump “messaging machine … moves into motion and cites details to the advantage of a counter-narrative.”
Trump supporters and administration officials did blast CNN over the potential inaccuracy in its reporting. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was director of the CIA when the extraction allegedly took place, called CNN’s report “materially false.”
Sciutto’s initial report cited five sources who provided information about the exfiltration. He said Sunday that only one source was behind the allegation regarding Trump.
“We did speak to someone high-level who said that Trump’s handling and his administration’s handling of factored into that decision,” said Sciutto. “A person involved in the discussion said that the president’s mishandling of intelligence contributed.”
New Yorker editor Susan Glasser noted the Times report on the spy saga differed from CNN’s.
“Obviously, I can’t speak to what’s behind the reporting dispute here. The New York Times account of this is different than CNN’s account,” she said Sunday.
Stelter and Sciutto did not respond to a request for comment.
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