The United States extracted a high-level spy who had infiltrated the Russian government due to concerns that President Donald Trump and others in the administration had, on several occasions, mishandled classified intelligence that could expose the Kremlin asset’s true identity, according to a CNN report Monday.
The secret extraction mission was reportedly ordered in May of 2017, shortly after President Trump met with Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office. During that meeting, Trump revealed highly classified intelligence pertaining to the terrorist group ISIS and its activities in Syria, which had been provided by Israel.
According to the report, such an operation, often referred to as “extraction” or “exfiltration,” is an “extraordinary remedy” that is reserved for circumstances wherein those atop the U.S. intelligence hierarchy believe an asset to be in imminent danger.
Reached by CNN for comment, Brittany Bramell, the CIA director of public affairs denied Monday’s reports.
“CNN’s narrative that the Central Intelligence Agency makes life-or-death decisions based on anything other than objective analysis and sound collection is simply false. Misguided speculation that the President’s handling of our nation’s most sensitive intelligence—which he has access to each and every day—drove an alleged exfiltration operation is inaccurate,” Bramell said.
Five sources who served in the Trump Administration and the intelligence community confirmed the details of the story to CNN. The news organization also withheld several details connected to the situation in order to protect the identity of the former Russian asset.
A spokesperson for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was the director of the CIA at the time of the reported exfiltration operation, declined to comment on CNN’s report. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said that CNN’s reporting was “not only incorrect, it has the potential to put lives in danger.”
The decision to extract one of the nation’s most valuable Russian spies was made despite the difficulty in cultivating such an asset.
[Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images.]
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