Was key CIA spy 'extracted’ from Moscow over fears Trump can't keep a secret?

9 Sep, 2019 23:02 / Updated 5 years ago

A high-level US spy inside the Russian government was evacuated in 2017 due to fears he could be exposed by President Donald Trump, CNN claimed in a report the White House, Moscow and the CIA have all rejected as fake news.

US intelligence “successfully extracted from Russia one of its highest-level covert sources inside the Russian government” in mid-2017, the network reported citing anonymous sources described as “multiple Trump administration officials with direct knowledge” of the secret mission.

The operation was supposedly launched after the May 2017 visit to the White House of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, over concerns that Trump and his administration “repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source as a spy,” in CNN’s words.

During the meeting Trump reportedly shared with Lavrov and Kislyak “highly classified intelligence” about Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) in Syria, provided by Israel. The CIA challenged that claim, however.

“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,” said Brittany Bramell, the CIA director of public affairs. “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.” 

Also on rt.com ‘US media fuss about Russian ambassador at Trump-Lavrov meeting is much ado about nothing’

That seemed to be good enough for Trump himself, who told reporters on Monday that “whatever the CIA responded [with] is fine with me. I know nothing.”

However, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said that “CNN's reporting is not only incorrect, it has the potential to put lives in danger.” 

Media outlets in Russia immediately began speculating as to the identity of the alleged mole, quickly settling on Oleg Smolenkov. Before 2010 he worked at the Russian embassy in Washington and then at the presidential administration, before becoming state councillor of the third class. Smolenkov took his wife and three children on vacation to Montenegro on July 14, 2017, whereupon they vanished without a trace. The police have been investigating their disappearance as possible murder.

The story about a high-level US “mole” in the Kremlin reads like a plot of a Tom Clancy novel and relies on anonymous sources and classified information, so it cannot be independently verified. 

Russian Senator Franz Klintsevich, deputy head of the Defense and Security Committee, dismissed CNN’s story as “fake” and “carrying out orders for another attempt to discredit Trump,” according to TASS.

Most of the US mainstream media outlets spent the past three years promoting the notorious ‘Russiagate’ conspiracy theory on behalf of the Democrats, and have refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing even though special counsel Robert Mueller failed to find anything to incriminate the president after a two-year investigation. 

Moreover, CNN and MSNBC have hired a number of former intelligence officials, whose fingerprints have been all over ‘Russiagate,’ as anti-Trump pundits.

Journalist Aaron Mate called the whole thing “fishy,” noting that there is a history of leaks from the intelligence community to “create a false link” between Trump and Russia, advance the ‘Russiagate’ narrative, and then blame Trump for the supposed vulnerability of these alleged sources.

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