Speed Reads

Russia Dossier

Former CIA chief suggests that U.S. intelligence must believe parts of the Trump Russia dossier

On Wednesday night, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said he had assured President-elect Donald Trump that he was dismayed by the release of the "private security document" alleging Russian ties with and dirt on Trump. Clapper also told Trump he does "not believe the leaks came from within" the U.S. intelligence community. On CNN on Wednesday, former acting CIA Director Michael Morell said that's likely true, noting that the dossier released by BuzzFeed was raw intelligence from a former British spy and not the two-page summary presented to Trump last Friday (also, U.S. intelligence agents would likely have been more careful redacting sensitive information).

CNN's Christiane Amanpour asked what we can learn from this development. "I was a bit surprised that our intelligence community would take a private document and summarize it for the president and president-elect if they didn't know anything about the credibility of the information in it — that would be, quite frankly, unprecedented," Morell said. "If there was some reason why they thought some part of it or certain aspects of it were credible, if they'd done some work, then it might make sense to bring it to his attention and say, 'You need to know this, we're working on this, we have some reason to believe that certain aspects of this are credible, we just don't know which one it is right now.'"

Amanpour suggested the dossier's files are either explosively true or libelously false, and Morell took the middle road. "Or certain parts of it might be true and certain parts of it might be false," he said. He read all 18 documents Tuesday night, he said, "and I felt myself transformed back into an intelligence analyst at CIA, and I felt like I was reading raw intelligence reports from sources." Some bits of information he knew were true, other "small bits" he knew to be false, and a lot he had no idea about: "This is what you see when you look at raw intelligence. And, very important to remember, sources — even the best CIA sources — get things wrong all the time," and raw intelligence doesn't mean much without corroboration. His "bottom line," Morell said, is that he doesn't know what's true in the dossier and what's not, and doesn't know how much or for how long the FBI has been investigating this — or what they might have found. Watch below. Peter Weber