Top Democrat questions United States meeting with Russian spy chiefs

CIA Director Mike Pompeo listens to a question during and event on intelligence issues at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington Tuesday Jan. 23 2018

The head of Russia's GRU military-intelligence unit also came to Washington, but it's not clear if he was in the meeting, which was said to be about counterterrorism strategy.

Head of the Main Directorate of the General Staff Igor Korobov visited Washington, The Washington Post learned.

USA and Russian officials confirmed talks between intelligence counterparts had occurred but would not specify which actors were present.

A Central Intelligence Agency spokesperson declined to give details of Pompeo's meetings.

Sergey Naryshkin, head of the Russian service known by its acronym SVR, held talks with U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and other U.S. intelligence officials, the sources said.

As the former and current intelligence officers of the United States told the publication, Naryshkin and Bortnikov had a meeting with the US CIA Director Mike Pompeo, at which they tackled countering terrorism.

Schumer had called for the White House to release details of Naryshkin's trip and whether the decision this week not to impose additional Russian Federation sanctions was related to his visit.

However, the meeting has also raised pointed questions on the left, with Democrats wondering how a sanctioned spy chief got into the USA and amid ongoing frustrations over how President Donald Trump handled Russian Federation sanctions for its interference in the 2016 presidential election. They anxious the Kremlin could conclude the United States is open to forgiving Russian Federation for its actions and wasn't resolved to forcefully prevent future meddling.

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China hit back on Thursday at CIA Director Mike Pompeo calling Beijing a "bigger threat to the USA than Russian Federation". Did any White House or National Security Council official meet with Naryshkin? In Moscow, the provenance of the list was roundly mocked, even as officials expressed irritation at the USA action. "Director Pompeo's refusal to answer that question is deeply troubling".

News of the visit drew condemnation from congressional Democrats already fuming over the Trump administration's refusal on Monday to impose new sanctions against Russian defense and intelligence firms-sanctions that were required by bipartisan legislation President Donald Trump begrudgingly approved in 2017.

The CIA released a statement saying that while it does not discuss the schedules of US intelligence leaders, "rest assured that any interaction with foreign intelligence agencies would have been conducted in accordance with USA law and in consultation with appropriate departments and agencies".

But the measures taken late on January 29 by the State and Treasury departments were met with disbelief by many observers, who expected asset freezes, travel bans, and other sanctions to be imposed, none of which happened.

The Post noted that Moscow and the USA have shared information on terrorism in the past, but the process is not usually so robust or close.

Pompeo said he is concerned by Russia's subversion tactics, just as European countries are.

And if intelligence officials do see a benefit in conferring with Russians, "it's really hard for people outside the intelligence community to know what stands behind those kind of decisions".

"I haven't seen a significant decrease in their activity", Pompeo told the BBC.

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