[This report has been updated.]
Former CIA officer and Texas Republican Rep. William Hurd said today that the intelligence community's conclusion that Vladimir Putin wanted Donald Trump to win the presidency was based on "substandard" intelligence that went through a "very atypical process."
"What we have looked at and proven that it wasn't credible intelligence that suggests the Kremlin had an opinion one way or another [on who won the 2016 election]," Hurd told Fox News. "I don't know what Vladimir Putin's opinion was."
The comments were Hurd's first to address the particularly controversial point in a disputed summary report released Monday by Republican-led House intelligence committee, to which Hurd belongs, upon announcing they were shutting down their investigation into Russian interference.
The overall headline from the summary was that the investigation reportedly found "no evidence of collusion, coordination, or conspiracy between the Donald Trump campaign and the Russians" [PDF]. But it also claimed that while the Russians did attempt to interfere in the democratic process, Russian president Vladimir Putin did not have a "preference" for Trump.
That last clause statement lies in stark contrast to the analysis produced by the U.S. intelligence community in January 2017, which said that "the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump" in their interference operations [PDF].
Rep. Chris Stewart, a Republican on the intelligence committee, said on CNN today that the CIA, and presumably the other intelligence agencies involved in drafting the Russia report, simply "got it wrong." A spokesperson for the Director of National Intelligence, the country's top intelligence official, said the intelligence community stands by its original assessment.
This division is presumably personal for Hurd because he spent nearly a decade of his career in the intelligence community as a CIA officer. In the past he has often defended his former place of employment and at times has been not been willing to publicly break with the party line.
Hurd attempted to get ahead of questions by releasing on Monday what he described as a his "full statement" regarding the summary report. That statement made no mention of the committee's significant disagreement with the intelligence community.
"He's in a tough position," fellow former CIA officer John Sipher said on Twitter of Hurd before his Fox News appearance.
Elsewhere in the Fox News interview, Hurd said that it was "ridiculous" that he and his GOP colleagues were attempting to protect Trump, as some Democrats alleged, and blasted the leaks that plagued the investigation. He said luckily the "men and women in the CIA and the FBI are hardworking professionals that don’t follow any of the drama that’s going on here in Washington, D.C." He said it was time the country moved on to protecting the 2018 election from similar interference.
Hurd is up for re-election this year and recently won his party's primary. He'll face a Democratic opponent in the battle for his congressional seat in May.
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