CIA director Mike Pompeo downplayed reports of division between President Donald Trump and the CIA in Wichita this week, but on Saturday the agency said he backs a report that Russia tried to influence the 2016 election after Trump said Russian President Vladimir Putin denied meddling.
The CIA told CNN that Pompeo stood by a January report by the U.S. intelligence community that concluded the Russian government directed a campaign to influence the election. “The intelligence assessment with regard to Russian election meddling has not changed,” the agency told the network.
That came after Trump, aboard Air Force One, said he and Putin had discussed the topic of election interference at a summit in Vietnam this week.
“He said he didn’t meddle. He said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times. But I just asked him again, and he said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they’re saying he did,” Trump said, according to a transcript of his conversation with reporters.
Trump declined to say whether he believed Putin, but he made clear he wasn’t interested in dwelling on the issue.
The CIA, FBI and National Security Agency all say Putin ordered an operation to influence the election in favor of Trump.
Trump’s repeated dismissals of the issue have at times put him at odds with the CIA, and prior to taking office he criticized the agency, at one point invoking Nazi Germany to chastise the agency for its handling of a dossier of claims about him.
Pompeo, who was a Kansas congressman before Trump chose him for CIA director, has attempted to straddle any distance between Trump and the CIA, and portrayed the president’s relationship with the agency in warm tones during his visit to Wichita, including in response to a question about stability within the CIA’s ranks.
“You may be referring to these stories about the president hating the intelligence community and everybody being in angst. I have not seen that,” Pompeo said, speaking at the Wichita Downtown Rotary.
“Indeed, I would argue that today they are thrilled with the change in administration. Not because of me, but because we’re allowing them to do what it is that they signed up to go do.”
Contributing: Suzanne Perez Tobias and the Associated Press