‘US spy’ worked in Russian president’s office

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Source Sergei Savostyanov Getty

According to the Times, the Central Intelligence Agency sought to extract the asset in 2016 - prior to Trump becoming president - over exposure concerns after top us officials in the Obama administration "revealed the severity of Russia's election interference with unusual detail".

The sources indicated that USA officials were seriously concerned that Kremlin officials had made public what they claimed was the individual's name.

In July 2017, several weeks after officials chose to bring home their man in Russia, Trump held a one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A number of Russian media outlets then reported that this unnamed spy could go by the name of Oleg Smolenkov, citing anonymous sources.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the person did not have direct access to President Vladimir Putin and that he was a low-level official "fired several years ago", news agency TASS reported.

His Kremlin position could have given him access to top-level national security information and likely provided U.S. intelligence with essential insights into Putin, intelligence experts said.

US officials had been concerned that Russian sources could be at risk of exposure as early as the fall of 2016, when the Obama administration first confirmed that Russia had stolen and publicly disclosed emails from the Democratic National Committee and the account of Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta.

Knowledge of the Russian covert source's existence was highly restricted within the United States government and intelligence agencies.

Reports said the mole was the highest-level U.S. source inside Russian Federation. Those concerns were described to CNN by five sources who served in the Trump administration, intelligence agencies and Congress.

In January 2017, the Obama administration published a detailed assessment that unambiguously laid the blame on the Kremlin, concluding that "Putin ordered an influence campaign" and that Russia's goal was to undermine faith in the US democratic process and harm Clinton's chances of winning. Obama did. And so did indiscreet intelligence officials.

The removal of the spy is an "extraordinary remedy taken when US intelligence believes an asset is in immediate danger", CNN wrote. Afterward, intelligence officials again expressed concern that the President may have improperly discussed classified intelligence with Russian Federation, according to an intelligence source with knowledge of the intelligence community's response to the Trump-Putin meeting. Part of it relied on communications intercepts and human intelligence, the official said.

The following month, The Washington Post reported that the CIA's conclusions relied on "sourcing deep inside the Russian government".

It said the man, his wife and three children left for Montenegro on July 14, 2017.

Smolenkov at different times worked at the Russian Embassy in the United States, in the Russian government administration and in the Russian presidential administration, open source documents inside Russia show.

Handling and running a Moscow-based informant is extremely hard because of Putin's counterintelligence defences.

At the end of the Obama administration, USA intelligence officials had already expressed concerns about the safety of this spy and other Russian assets, given the length of their cooperation with the United States, according to the former senior intelligence official.

Mr. Putin made the remark while denying Russia's involvement in a 2018 attack in Salisbury, England, that saw Sergei Skripal, a former KGB officer who had flipped to working for British intelligence, hospitalized along with his daughter after coming into contact with a nerve agent. These "current and former officials" and their friends at the Times are beneath contempt. It takes time to arrange for the asset, and potentially family members, to be secretly removed from the country and resettled. The New York Times later reported that the informant had sent secrets to Washington for decades.

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