Rep. Doug Collins called Tuesday for an “investigation” into CNN after the network reported that the CIA secretly extracted a spy from Russia in 2017.
The Georgia Republican and ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee made the suggestion while speaking on Fox News about the explosive CNN report, aspects of which were subsequently corroborated by outlets including The New York Times and NBC News but dismissed by the CIA as “simply false.”
“To put this out at this time and to put it such a way that the CIA actually had to come out and respond to this is really a disturbing part,” Mr. Collins said.
“I really question whose side CNN is on,” he said. “This is a problem that we’re seeing. I think that it needs to be investigated.”
A spokesperson for Mr. Collins clarified later Tuesday that he did not mean to call for launching a federal investigation into the network, however.
“When the CIA takes the step of coming out to contradict a story, it’s worth asking how we got to that point,” said Jessica Andrews, a spokesperson for Mr. Collins. “The Congressman was specifically calling for personal reflection on how a story with national security implications was published when our national intelligence experts say it’s inaccurate.”
CNN did not immediately return a request for comment.
According to CNN, the CIA pulled a high-level spy out of Russia in 2017 partially due to concerns involving President Trump’s handling of sensitive information.
The Times reported later Monday that current U.S. officials insisted that “media scrutiny of the agency’s sources alone was the impetus for the extraction.”
“Misguided speculation that the President’s handling of our nation’s most sensitive intelligence — which he has access to each and every day — drove an alleged exfiltration operation is inaccurate,” CIA director for public affairs Brittany Bramell responded to CNN’s reporting in a statement.
“CNN’s reporting is not only incorrect, it has the potential to put lives in danger,” said White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, the network reported Monday.
The spy had access to Russian President Vladimir Putin, both CNN and The Times reported, with the newspaper adding that he was instrumental in the CIA concluding that Mr. Putin had personally ordered Russia’s interference campaign targeting the 2016 U.S. elections.
Russian media outlets have subsequently identified the spy as possibly being a former Kremlin aide who was reported to have disappeared in June 2017.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed Tuesday that the individual worked in the Putin administration but denied he held a high-ranking position, Russian state media reported.
“All these speculations in the American media that somebody urgently extracted someone and who rescued someone and so on are some sort of pulp fiction, you know. Let’s leave it to them,” said Mr. Peskov, TASS reported.
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