CNN reported on Monday that one of the highest-level American spies in Russia was extracted during a secret 2017 mission over concerns that President Trump mishandled intelligence that could have accidentally revealed the spy.
Multiple Trump administration officials with direct knowledge told CNN that the decision to carry out the extraction occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump shared highly classified intelligence given by Israel about ISIS in Syria with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak.
The disclosure of classified intelligence sparked a fear that the spy would be discovered, and then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo warned senior Trump officials “that too much information was coming out regarding the covert source, known as an asset. An extraction, or ‘exfiltration’ as such an operation is referred to by intelligence officials, is an extraordinary remedy when US intelligence believes an asset is in immediate danger.”
CNN did not identify the spy or release any revealing details.
The White House and CIA both released statements to CNN pushing back on the report.
“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,” CIA Director for Public Affairs Brittany Barmell said in a statement to CNN.
“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,” they added.
The White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told CNN that its “reporting is not only incorrect, it has the potential to put lives in danger.”
Sources told CNN that the removal of the spy caused the U.S. to lose a key source in the Russian government built up over time in a time where there’s increased tensions between the countries.
A source told the news network that the United States had “no equal alternative” insight into the Russian government and Russian President Vladimir Putin.