As for the stupid case of CIA spy being pulled out of Moscow for concern about his safety, the New York Times played it pretty straight.
But the Times account undermines a story previously published by CNN that tried to blame the episode in part on President Trump.
And therein lies a tangled story of espionage, intrigue, journalism, and a former Obama administrator who now works as a reporter and anchor.
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The broad outlines were already known: the CIA had developed a relationship with a senior Russian official who had access to Vladimir Putin ̵
What is new is that the agency became concerned about the person's personal safety and pushed to relocate him. When he refused on family grounds, officials became suspicious that he might have turned around and become a double agent for Russia – and fed his handlers bad information, according to the Times.
But the CIA got its spy from Russia in 2017, and the question now is why.
The CNN piece, based on a single named source, points the finger at the president:
"A person directly involved in the discussions said that the removal of Russia was partly driven by concern that President Donald Trump and his administration repeatedly abused classified intelligence and could help to reveal the secret source as a spy. "
The no-confidence-Trump scenario was addressed – and contradicted – in yesterday's Times story:
" The decision to extract the informant was "partially" driven by concerns that Mr. Trump and his administration had abused sensitive intelligence. , CNN reported, but former intelligence officials said there was no public evidence that Mr. Trump directly jeopardized the source, and other current U.S. officials insisted that media review of the agency's sources was solely the driving force for the recovery. "
The Washington Post also condemns CNN theory, while noting that the informant was spurned from Russia after Trump disclosed classified terrorism information to the Russian ambassador and Foreign Minister at an Oval Office meeting:
"This disclosure was of concern to the US national security authorities, but it was not the reason for the decision to remove the CIA asset, which had e provided information to the United States for more than a decade, according to current and former officials. "
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News sites may disagree on details and motivation in the shadowy world of espionage, where so much is dependent on others. The Times, for example, was severely burned by the Bush administration's sources in its credible reports of Saddam Hussein's non-existent WMD during the start of the Iraq war.
But it is worth noting that the CNN story is written by Jim Scuitto, who left ABC to become a political appointee in the Obama administration.
Scuitto's story identifies him only as CNN's national security chief. There is no mention of his previous position with Obama. In the air it is sometimes mentioned and sometimes it is not.
Scuitto's role draws flak from Erick Erickson on Resurgent:
"Based on CNN's own reporting and behavior, if Sciutto had worked for George W. Bush or Donald Trump, CNN would ask ethical decency questions in a a story developed by Sciutto that blasted an administration of the opposite party … If Jim Sciutto was from a Republican administration and did this on Fox, CNN would have many questions. We all know it and the people on CNN know it. "
A CIA statement denied the CNN story, calling it" simply false "and based on" erroneous speculation. "Former CIA chief Mike Pompeo said the paragraph was" substantially in error "."
This is not just a matter of past history. As the Times put it:
"The person's life remains in danger," current and former officials said, pointing to Moscow's attempt last year to murder Sergei V. Skripal, a former Russian intelligence official who moved to Britain as part of a high – profile spy exchange 2010. ”
At the same time, Trump dropped a foreign policy bomb shot yesterday by firing John Bolton. The president was not subtle about why he dumped his third national security adviser in almost three years, saying that he informed Bolton "that his services are no longer needed in the White House" and that "he did not agree with many of his proposals, as did others in The administration. "
The news that Bolton lost influence turned out to be true. The former Fox News contributor and his boss crushed many issues, and Trump openly joked about Bolton's hawkish views and had to resist his inclination to start a war.
It was no secret that Bolton was skeptical of the president's nuclear talks with Kim Jong – and did not differ with regard to Iran – the triggering event was obviously Bolton's opposition to Trump inviting Taliban leaders to Camp David, a secret meeting that the president interrupted after an American soldier was killed in Afghanistan.
Bolton tweeted that he offered to leave Monday night and Trump said they would talk about it the next day. It turns out there wasn't much to talk about. Bolton also had repeated disagreements with Mike Pompeo, who confirmed it to reporters yesterday.
The president, who no longer has his original heads of state, defense or justice and is on his third chief of staff and press secretary, tends to lose patience with advisers who repeatedly disagree with him. People who join the administration are well aware of it. I doubt Bolton, who knew that Trump had a completely different attitude to foreign policy, is shocked that his time is over after less than a year and a half.