Donald Trump reportedly had the head of the CIA pursuing a debunked conspiracy theory he saw on Fox News, while trying to deflect attention from the damaging Russia scandal.
Donald Trump had the director of the CIA chasing a conspiracy theory promoted on Fox News, apparently with the hope it could take off some of the heat he's feeling from the ongoing Russia investigations.
The Intercept reports that CIA Director Mike Pompeo met with former intelligence official William Binney, who has been peddling the theory that the Democratic Party's servers were not hacked during the 2016 election. Multiple intelligence agencies have made it crystal clear that Russian hackers broke into those servers.
Another person who shares Binney's conspiracy theory is Trump, who has continued to ignore the intelligence agencies while pushing the idea that a "400-pound hacker" did the job.
Binney told the Intercept that Pompeo said Trump pushed for their meeting. According to Binney, Trump told Pompeo that if he "want[ed] to know the facts, he should talk to [Binney]."
"This is crazy," one former CIA officer told The Intercept. "You’ve got all these intelligence agencies saying the Russians did the hack. To deny that is like coming out with the theory that the Japanese didn’t bomb Pearl Harbor."
He appeared on Tucker Carlson's prime time show to push his conspiracy in August, and has been a frequent guest of the propaganda network, with at least 10 appearances since September of 2016.
Trump has a track record of foolishly reacting to stories he has seen on Fox. It would not be a stretch for him to have done so in this case, particularly as the investigation into Russian interference continues to claw at his presidency.
Pushing Binney's conspiracy would sidestep the concerns about multiple contacts his campaign had with Russian agents. This includes the meeting between his son Donald Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner, and campaign chairman Paul Manafort with a Russian peddling dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Manafort was recently indicted by Mueller and has been accused of conspiracy against the United States.
The Russia problem isn't going away any time soon, but it is disturbing that Trump could misuse his powers to weaponize the CIA in this fashion — a move that echoes recent revelations that Trump ordered the State Department to dig up Hillary Clinton-era documents as part of his deflection strategy.
Trump has expressed sympathy and admiration for autocratic despots across the globe. Using intelligence agencies to pursue wacky theories is a hallmark of such leaders, and Trump's actions fit right in.