Collins also touched on reports last week which claimed that intelligence officials paid a shadowy Russian $100,000 to buy back NSA cyberweapons, but that the Russian instead only offered dubious and unverified “kompromat,” or compromising material, on Trump.
“Is it accurate that the CIA has categorically denied the assertions in this story?” Collins asked Pompeo. “If so, what would be the motivations of a Russian who peddled this story to the New York Times and other Western media outlets? Is this part of the Russian campaign to undermine faith in western democracies?”
Pompeo said reporting on the matter had been “atrocious,” “ridiculous,” and “totally inaccurate.”
He added that the stories were false and echoed the CIA’s official statement on the matter, saying that the “people who were swindled” were the authors of the two pieces.
“It’s our view that the same two people were proferred phony information to the US government proferred that same information to these two reporters. The CIA did not provide any resources of money to the people who offered the information at any time.”
The reports in question said last week that the Russian offering to sell the stolen cyberweapons back to the US first got in touch with American officials in early 2017 as they were trying to make a deal with a separate hacker to re-acquire the tools.
When that deal fell through, the Russian offered to step in and manage the transaction, according to the reports. He reportedly had ties to Russian intelligence, had a past history of money-laundering, and also used an almost-defunct company as his cover business.
While he initially demanded a $10 million payment, the price was later whittled down to $1 million, to be paid in separate installments. The first payment of $100,000, the report said, was sent in late September 2017.
But throughout the course of negotiations, officials said, the Russian appeared to be more interested in pitching them documents that he claimed proved Trump’s extensive ties to Russia and Russia-linked individuals. Among those materials, per the report, was a tape that purportedly showed Trump engaging in sexual activity with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room in 2013.
US officials made it clear to the Russian intermediary that they were not interested in the kompromat he was offering on Trump. Moreover, the report said, upon closer examination of the materials the Russian provided, counterintelligence officials found that they did not bear the hallmarks of a Russian intelligence product.
Rather, they appeared to have been pulled from public news reports. US officials therefore feared they were part of a disinformation campaign aimed at stoking tensions over the Steele dossier, which the FBI is using as a “roadmap” while it investigates Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
Former FBI and CIA counterintelligence agents largely agreed with that assessment, telling Business Insider last week that the interaction had all the signs of a classic Russian intelligence operation.
One former agent emphasized that the Russians’ modus operandi was to offer adversaries “what they want and then give them what you really want them to have. If you can sow discord between the intelligence agencies and whatever administration is in power, then you’ve done your job.”