CIA's Pompeo Defends Meeting Sanctioned Russian Spy Chief

(Bloomberg) -- CIA Director Mike Pompeo shot back at Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer after the lawmaker accused President Donald Trump of letting Russia’s sanctioned spy chief “waltz through the U.S. front door.”

Sergei Naryshkin, head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, visited the U.S. last week for discussions on the fight against terrorism, according to a tweet Tuesday by the Russian Embassy in Washington. Schumer told reporters the same day that the White House must disclose who the spy chief, listed on a Treasury Department sanctions list, met with.

In a letter to Schumer Thursday, Pompeo said he was writing in response to the New York lawmaker’s suggestion that “there was something untoward” in Russian intelligence officials meeting with their U.S. counterparts. “Let me assure you there is not,” he said.

U.S. intelligence officials periodically meet their Russian counterparts to ensure U.S. security and have done so under previous administrations, Pompeo added. The Central Intelligence Agency director visited Moscow to meet Russian officials last year.

“While Russia remains an adversary, we would put American lives at greater risk if we ignored opportunities to work with the Russian services in the fight against terrorism,” Pompeo said. In those meetings, “we cover very difficult subjects in which American and Russian interests do not align” and U.S. officials “pull no punches.”

Schumer had called for the White House to release details of Naryshkin’s trip and whether the decision this week not to impose additional Russia sanctions was related to his visit. Naryshkin was put on a Treasury Department list of sanctioned officials in 2014.

On Monday, Pompeo told the BBC that he had “every expectation” that Russia would try to interfere in the U.S. midterm elections this year, but said the U.S. would “push back in a way that is sufficiently robust.”

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