USA extracted spy from Putins Kremlin

US quietly removed top spy from Russia in 2017

CNN chief national security correspondent and former Obama diplomatic staffer Jim Sciutto had a major scoop Monday, reporting that "in a previously undisclosed secret mission in 2017, the United States successfully extracted from Russia one of its highest-level covert sources inside the Russian government".

Reporting by CNN and the New York Times said the source was outside the inner circle of Russian leader President Putin but had regular access to Mr Putin and was even able to photograph documents on the leader's desk.

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.

According to CNN, the spy was pulled out of Russian Federation in 2017 due to concerns that President Donald Trump and his cabinet could expose the asset due to repeated mishandling of classified intelligence.

There was no suggestion that President Trump directly compromised the source in Russian Federation, and reports said that widespread media speculation about United States intelligence conclusions had contributed to the decision to extract the source.

The decision to carry out the extraction occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak.

Earlier on Tuesday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov confirmed that Smolenkov had worked in the Russian Presidential Administration, but that "a few years ago he was dismissed through an internal instruction", Tass reported. He said Mr. Smolenkov "did not belong to the category of high-ranking state officials" and did not have access to Mr. Putin. "I do not know whether he was an agent or not", he said.

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"I question whether this angle of this story, about whether the president's engagement with intelligence was actually a spur in the extraction of the informant, I suspect there are other issues here".

The Russian foreign minister also denied that Mr. Trump had shared any classified information during their 2017 meeting in the White House. It said Mr. Putin was, in part, motivated by a "grudge" against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton "for comments he nearly certainly saw as disparaging him". He said the conversation had been focused on the need to improve bilateral ties between Washington and Moscow, which have been near post-Cold War lows since Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Trump later defended his actions by asserting that he had "the absolute right" to share information and had done so in order to encourage the Russians to "greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism".

It said the informant at first refused to be evacuated, or extracted, citing family concerns, which prompted fear at the Central Intelligence Agency about whether the person was trustworthy.

Fears for the spy's safety had grown amid heavy scrutiny of Russia's role in interfering in the 2016 presidential election. Last year, Russian operatives travelled to England and used a nerve agent in an assassination attempt against a former Russian military intelligence officer, Sergei Skripal, who had spied for the British. One of the two men that Britain accuses of murdering Mr. Litvinenko now sits in Russia's parliament.

Later on Tuesday, Russia's office for presidential affairs said it had not employed Smolenkov.

"Such a person hasn't worked for us", Krylova said when Interfax provided a name and asked for comment.

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