CIA Director Mike Pompeo defended his decision to meet with "our Russian intelligence counterparts" in a recent letter to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
Pompeo wrote the letter in response to comments from Schumer, who suggested the meeting was cagey because the it came just before the administration decided new sanctions would not be imposed upon Russian officials and oligarchs in response to Russia's efforts to impede the 2016 election.
In the letter, Pompeo claimed he and others met with the Russians “to keep Americans safe” as those before him have done.
Pompeo said that, "while Russia remains an adversary, we would put American lives at greater risk if we ignored opportunities to work with the Russian services in the fight against terrorism."
Pompeo also asserted that without these types of meetings, “we cover very difficult subjects in which American and Russian interests do not align.”
“We vigorously defend America in these encounters and pull no punches — we never will,” he wrote.
Schumer, whose staff was informed about the meeting and the legal process on Tuesday ahead of a news conference, condemned Pompeo, saying the meeting was “a serious national security issue.”
News of the meeting was posted on social media by the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
Mentioned in a CNN report on the meeting were Sergey Naryshkin, head of Russian foreign intelligence service SVR, has been prohibited from coming into the U.S. since 2014 after sanctions for Russia’s destabilizing efforts in Ukraine were put in place. Alexander Bortnikov, head of Russia’s internal intelligence service FSB, faces sanctions from the European Union.
“If this administration is ignoring sanctions, that’s very serious,” Schumer said, according to media reports. He also added that Pompeo's letter dodged answering whether sanctions were discussed at the meeting.
Pompeo did not meet with the leader of the Russian military intelligence agency that attempted to interfere with the 2016 U.S. election though, a U.S. official told CNN.
"It is no accident the Russians announced this meeting," the U.S. official told CNN. "The target was sowing discord in U.S."
Special counsel Robert Muller, along with several other congressional committees, are conducting probes to determine if the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 election.