The FBI’s reported attempt to obtain information under false pretenses from former Trump campaign operative George Papadopoulos in 2016 constitutes spying, former CIA counter-intelligence chief James Olson told Hill.TV in an interview Monday.
“It does sound like spying,” Olson said, adding that “spying can take many different forms and the art of spying has evolved.”
He went on to say that “the old fashioned ways of misrepresenting yourselves or approaching someone under false pretenses is still kind of the tried and true — that sounds like what happened here.”
Olson’s remarks come after The New York Times reported last week that the FBI sent a government investigator to the London in September 2016 to meet with Papadopoulos under false pretenses as part of the agency’s initial probe into possible ties between the campaign and Moscow.
The woman reportedly worked with another U.S. government informant, Cambridge University professor Stefan Halper, to probe any possible knowledge Papadopoulos had of Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The Times article prompted an outcry from President Trump and his allies. The president has long alleged there was a broad conspiracy against him at the FBI during the 2016 campaign. Trump called last week’s article “bigger than Watergate” in a Friday tweet.
Olson said of Turk’s reported actions, “I think that person did misrepresent the purpose and was looking for information.”
“Yeah, I’d call that spying,” he added.
Attorney General William Barr sparked controversy last month when he said the Trump campaign was spied on during the 2016 race. Barr was immediately criticized by Democrats, who said he was perpetuating Trump’s allegations.
Barr defended his use of the word in congressional testimony last week, saying, “I’m not going to abjure the use of the word ‘spying.'”
“I think spying is a good English word that, in fact, doesn’t have synonyms because it is the broadest word incorporating really all forms of covert intelligence collection,” he said. “So I’m not going to back off the word ‘spying.’”
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