The Obama administration's rapid release of 10 Russian intelligence officers removed the prospect of a public trial revealing embarrassing facts about Russian influence operations, like the targeting of a key Democratic Party financier close to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Current and former national security officials critical of the speedy exchange with Moscow also said trading the 10 spies for four Russians less than two weeks after their arrest also limited U.S. counterspies from learning important details of Russian espionage and influence operations.
Questions about the handling of the case were raised Tuesday during a closed-door briefing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the ranking Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, questioned the unprecedented speed used by the administration in moving the spies out of the country.
"We gave up the opportunity," he said. "Now that these people are out of the country, it's game off, not game on. We will get no additional insights or information from them."
The swap of the 10 "illegals," or deep-cover agents, last week — 12 days after their arrest — also prevented trial disclosures of other potentially embarrassing details, like the identities of what an FBI criminal complaint described as a "former legislative counsel for the U.S. Congress" and "former high-ranking United States government national security official" both of whom provided information to two Boston-based Russians in the case. Both officials' names were omitted from the complaint.
It was very odd how fast they made that trade. Now it makes more sense.
Spy swap puts halt to fact finding - Washington Times