Russian spy chief met U.S. officials in United States last week

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Pompeo also said he does not back away from hard issues in Russian-US relations, such as the crisis in Ukraine.

The head of the Central Intelligence Agency explained to the Democratic senator that Moscow and Washington collaborate on aviation security and on preventing foreign fighters from going back to both Russian Federation and the United States.

Naryshkin is among the senior Russian defense and intelligence officials who had previously been sanctioned by the Obama administration in 2014 in retaliation for Russian's invasion of Ukraine.

On Tuesday, the Russian embassy issued tweets dismissing Pompeo's remarks and reiterating Moscow's disavowal of the hacking campaign.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo defended the meeting in a Thursday letter to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, declaring that he and other officials met with Russians for the same reason their predecessors did - "to keep Americans safe".

Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov confirmed that Naryshkin was in Washington to meet with U.S. officials about terrorism and other matters.

On Thursday, Pompeo struck back in a letter of his own, telling Schumer that there was nothing "untoward" about United States and Russian intelligence officials meeting. The sanctions on Korobov were imposed in connection with attempts to interfere in the election of the United States president through hacker attacks, for which Washington blames Moscow.

In the interview, Pompeo also repeated his message that North Korea was close to developing missiles which could be used in a nuclear attack on the United States. Coats' office said that while it does not discuss US intelligence officials' schedules, "any interaction with foreign intelligence agencies would have been conducted in accordance with USA law and in consultation with appropriate departments and agencies".

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Government agencies at times need to secure waivers to get certain individuals into the country, according to a USA official, who agreed to discuss the process only on condition of anonymity.

CAATSA - or the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act - is a law signed by Trump in August that imposed sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea. He said "if this administration is ignoring sanctions, that's very serious". But Democrats criticized the list, saying it had been cobbled together from publicly available sources, including Forbes magazine's list of the wealthiest Russians.

Antonov did not identify the US intelligence officials with whom he met.

News of Naryshkin's secret visit poured fresh fuel on the battles pitting the Trump administration and its Republican defenders against Democrats over investigations into Moscow's alleged 2016 election interference.

He was banned from entering the United States, but sanctions experts said there are processes for providing people under sanction permission to enter for official business.

The CIA released a statement saying that while it does not discuss the schedules of US intelligence leaders, "rest assured that any interaction with foreign intelligence agencies would have been conducted in accordance with USA law and in consultation with appropriate departments and agencies". The publication could not establish whether Korobov took part in the meeting. The officials were not authorized to disclose the information and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Just this week, Pompeo warned in an interview with the BBC that Russian Federation was still a threat to American elections.

"I haven't seen a significant decrease in their activity", Pompeo told the BBC.

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