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GOP Congressman Rejects Trump’s Reported Concerns About Using Spies: We Need to Spy on Our Enemies

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican who serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, appeared on CNN Tuesday morning and reacted to new reporting that President Donald Trump isn’t fond of using spies to collect intelligence on foreign countries.

“President Donald Trump has privately and repeatedly expressed opposition to the use of foreign intelligence from covert sources, including overseas spies who provide the US government with crucial information about hostile countries,” CNN’s Jim Sciutto reported Tuesday, citing multiple senior officials who served in the administration. “Trump has privately said that foreign spies can damage relations with their host countries and undermine his personal relationships with their leaders, the sources said.”

Sciutto interviewed the Illinois Republican after reporting the story on air, first asking about CNN’s exclusive this week that the U.S. extracted a spy from Russia who had high-level access within the Kremlin. CNN had reported that the spy was extracted in 2017 “in part” over concerns that Trump and his administration mishandled classified intelligence. A CIA spokesperson called that reporting “simply false” in a statement.

Kinzinger defended the use of informants, offering a rebuke of Trump’s reported concerns about spies.

“Even our allies spy on us,” Kinzinger said. “I read an article recently that said there’s more spies per capita in Washington D.C. than anywhere in the world. There’s probably one 200 yards from me somewhere here. It’s the nature of the business. We need to spy on especially our enemies. And Russia is an enemy. China is an enemy. And we need to have assets, both electronic and human surveillance assets, high up in positions. So generally speaking, because I don’t know enough about this story, generally speaking, I’ll say, human intelligence is extremely important, and in many cases more important than even electronic intelligence in all areas.”

“Right. And we know that intelligence agencies depend on that kind of information,” Sciutto said.

“Absolutely,” Kinzinger replied.

“You are aware of the president’s often public battle with intelligence agencies, disagreeing or questioning their assessments on a whole host of things. What damage does that do, not just to the intelligence community’s work but just the way America responds to these threats?” Sciutto asked the congressman.

“Yeah, it’s not great,” Kinzinger said. “The president has every right to disagree. Typically that’s done in private, right? You want a president surrounded by people with different opinions. You want a president that actually thinks through this stuff and questions what’s told of him because even the CIA, even intelligence agencies aren’t always right, but they are the best we have to find out information that we need to defend the American people and American interests.”

Kinzinger proceeded to outline the issues with a president taking a fight with the intelligence community public:

“And so taking any kind of a battle public is always concerning for a couple of reasons. Number one, it does discredit. Let’s say we find ourselves in a major military conflict, whether with Iran or defending somebody or whatever that is, that will be base inside some cases on intelligence assessments. And now if you discredit whether in front of the world or in front of the American people, that can have a major impact and discourage the intelligence services but they’ll still do their job and do it well. I just think these kinds of things are — a lot of people appreciate a president that’s transparent. Some things where it’s like, maybe we shouldn’t be that transparent all the time.”

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Aidan McLaughlin is the Editor of Mediaite. Send tips via email: [email protected] Ask for Signal. Follow him on Twitter: @aidnmclaughlin