Extra particulars have emerged of an alleged high-level spy the US reportedly extracted from Russia amid fears his cowl was about to be blown.
Russian media named him as Oleg Smolenkov, who labored for a key aide to President Vladimir Putin.
Mr Smolenkov was not senior, had been fired years in the past and the extraction studies have been fiction, the Kremlin mentioned.
A CNN report said the CIA had feared President Trump’s “mishandling” of intelligence might put the spy in danger.
CNN mentioned the extraction got here after the president met senior Russian officers, together with International Minister Sergei Lavrov, within the White Home in Could 2017 and had unexpectedly shared categorized US intelligence.
The CIA mentioned CNN’s reporting of the extraction was “misguided” and “merely false”.
What was alleged within the US media studies?
CNN launched the preliminary report on Monday, citing “a number of Trump administration officers with direct information” of the extraction operation.
The alleged agent was not named by US media however it was claimed the intelligence asset was the highest-level US supply inside Russia, with common entry to President Putin.
The studies mentioned the supply had spied for the US for greater than a decade.
The New York Instances mentioned the agent was instrumental within the conclusion by US intelligence companies in 2016 that Mr Putin had personally orchestrated Russia’s interference within the US presidential election.
Nonetheless, its report mentioned the CIA had needed to extract the agent earlier than Mr Trump took workplace as a result of investigations by media have been placing the asset in danger. There was no suggestion President Trump had instantly compromised the supply, it mentioned.
On Tuesday, CNN quoted sources who had served beneath Mr Trump as saying the president had repeatedly expressed his opposition to using overseas spies as a result of it broken relations with different nations.
How has Russia responded?
Russian media rapidly got here up with the title of Oleg Smolenkov.
The Kommersant newspaper mentioned he had gone on vacation together with his household to Montenegro in 2017 and disappeared, earlier than a person with the identical title and a girl with the identical title as Mr Smolenkov’s spouse bought a home within the US state of Virginia, close to Washington DC.
Legislation enforcement sources advised Kommersant that Moscow had investigated whether or not Mr Smolenkov had been killed in Montenegro, however concluded he was now dwelling overseas.
With out naming the alleged agent on the request of US officers, NBC Information mentioned one among its reporters had visited the Virginia house on Monday and located the person was “dwelling overtly beneath his true title”. The reporter was tracked by two males in an SUV when he rang the doorbell, NBC mentioned.
Russian studies mentioned Mr Smolenkov had labored for Yury Ushakov, a senior international coverage aide to President Putin and a former Russian ambassador to the US.
Mr Smolenkov was with Mr Ushakov within the US for various years till the latter was recalled in 2008.
A former colleague advised RIA Novosti that Mr Smolenkov dealt with administrative affairs equivalent to purchases for the embassy.
Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, mentioned: “It’s true that Smolenkov labored within the presidential administration however he was fired a number of years in the past. His job was not at a senior official stage.”
He couldn’t affirm whether or not Mr Smolenkov was a spy nor why he had been sacked, however added: “All this US media hypothesis about who urgently extracted who and saved who from who and so forth – that is extra the style of pulp fiction, crime studying, so let’s go away it as much as them.”
Mr Lavrov mentioned he didn’t know Mr Smolenkov. “I’ve by no means seen him, I’ve by no means met him, and I’ve neither saved monitor of his profession nor his actions,” the international minister mentioned.
He added that no state secrets and techniques had been divulged on the White Home assembly with Mr Trump.
How laborious is it to extract a mole?
BBC safety correspondent Gordon Corera
Getting an agent out of Moscow will be difficult however what comes after will be even more durable. Through the Chilly Battle, British and American intelligence got here up with an array of plans to extract brokers.
Probably the most dramatic was the smuggling of KGB officer Oleg Gordievsky throughout the Finnish border within the boot of an MI6 officer’s automobile. That was notably tough since he was already beneath suspicion. If an agent is just not beneath watch then it’s simpler for them to easily disappear on a piece journey or vacation. However that isn’t the top of the story.
Russian (and previously) Soviet intelligence has proven a willingness and want to go after such brokers after they’ve fled. The newest instance was Sergei Skripal (who had left in a swap after being pardoned). That signifies that defending brokers after they settle within the West and offering them with long-term safety will be as difficult as getting them out within the first place.
It sounds just like the makings of a John le Carré espionage novel. A high-level intelligence asset – one who offered key details about an try to sabotage a US presidential election – is extracted from Russia within the face of probably grave hazard.
If a number of media studies are to be believed, nonetheless, that is actual life – and the US political penalties could possibly be important.
The episode highlights the US intelligence group’s considerations about Donald Trump and his associates within the early days of his presidency. It displays a conclusion that an undisciplined commander-in-chief might pose a nationwide safety threat – even when solely inadvertently.
These considerations have been already public information, after all, however that is probably the most dramatic instance of their penalties.
The Trump administration has vehemently denied the reporting. The president, who has spent a lot of his time feuding with, and sometimes instantly condemning, the US intelligence group – the so-called “deep state” – absolutely can be livid.
This revelation will solely make White Home tensions with, and suspicions about, the personnel who present the president with clandestine details about world affairs all of the extra acute.