‘US spy’ worked in Russian president’s office

‘US spy’ worked in Russian president’s office

At the time, then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo told other senior Trump administration officials that too much information was coming out regarding the covert source, known as an asset. Western media reports portray the alleged mole as a senior official who enjoyed direct access to Putin.

However, those fears were eased when the informant finally agreed to be extracted in 2017.

The move brought to an end the career of one of the CIA's most important sources.

The Times reported that the person had provided information to the United States for decades, including insights that helped us intelligence agencies conclude that Putin was directly involved in efforts to interfere in the presidential election, to benefit Donald Trump's bid for the presidency.

CNN reported on Monday that the United States had successfully extracted one of its highest-level covert sources inside Russian Federation in 2017. According to the Times, CIA officials "made the arduous decision in late 2016 to offer to extract the source from Russia" - weeks before Trump even took office. This article is based on interviews in recent months with current and former officials who spoke on the condition that their names not be used discussing classified information.

A United States official said before the secret operation there was media speculation about the existence of such a covert source, and such coverage or public speculation poses risks to the safety of anyone a foreign government suspects may be involved. The person's life remains in danger, current and former officials said, pointing to Moscow's attempts a year ago to assassinate Sergei V Skripal, a former Russian intelligence official who moved to Britain as part of a high-profile spy exchange in 2010.

The individual was key in providing information that led USA intelligence to conclude Putin directly orchestrated Russian interference in favor of Trump and against his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, the Times said. As the American government's best insight into the thinking of and orders from Mr. Putin, the source was also key to the C.I.A.'s assessment that he affirmatively favored Donald J. Trump's election and personally ordered the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.

According to the Times, the agent was the CIA's most valuable Russian asset.

Rusian intelligence officials who have crossed Putin have been targeted in the past.

The disclosure to the Russians by the President, though not about the Russian spy specifically, prompted intelligence officials to renew earlier discussions about the potential risk of exposure, according to the source directly involved in the matter. Former CIA employees describe the entanglements as "Moscow rules".

The informant initially refused - citing family issues and prompting fears the individual had become a double agent, the Times said. That would nearly certainly mean that some of the information the informant provided about the Russian interference campaign or Putin's intentions would have been inaccurate. But they did not deny that the operation had taken place. The CIA declined to comment. The New York Times later said the informant had sent secrets to Washington for decades.

'There have been times when people have not come out when we strongly suggested that they should, ' he said.

Sources who worked with the White House, the intelligence community, and Congress told CNN that there was a particular worry that the Trump administration would mishandle classified information pertaining to the source.

In July 2017, several weeks after officials chose to bring home their man in Russia, Trump held a one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

CNN also reported that the decision to move the person out of Russia was fueled by US intelligence concerns that Trump may have leaked classified information to Russian officials, including during a May 2017 White House meeting.

A Kremlin spokesman said he did not know if Mr Smolenkov was a spy and that the extraction reports were "fiction". "He does it in front of our adversaries".

But the government had indicated that the source existed long before Trump took office, first in formally accusing Russian Federation of interference in October 2016 and then when intelligence officials declassified parts of their assessment about the interference campaign for public release in January 2017.

Earlier, both the White House and the Central Intelligence Agency denied the media reports.

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