Infrastructure Week is off to a hell of a start!
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) September 9, 2019
Jim Sciutto has the exclusive at CNN (emphasis mine):
Washington (CNN)In a previously undisclosed secret mission in 2017, the United States successfully extracted from Russia one of its highest-level covert sources inside the Russian government, multiple Trump administration officials with direct knowledge told CNN.
A person directly involved in the discussions said that the removal of the Russian was driven, in part, by concerns that President Donald Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source as a spy.
The decision to carry out the extraction occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. The intelligence, concerning ISIS in Syria, had been provided by Israel.
The disclosure to the Russians by the President, though not about the Russian spy specifically, prompted intelligence officials to renew earlier discussions about the potential risk of exposure, according to the source directly involved in the matter.
The removal happened at a time of wide concern in the intelligence community about mishandling of intelligence by Trump and his administration. Those concerns were described to CNN by five sources who served in the Trump administration, intelligence agencies and Congress.
Those concerns continued to grow in the period after Trump’s Oval Office meeting with Kislyak and Lavrov. Weeks after the decision to extract the spy, in July 2017, Trump met privately with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Hamburg and took the unusual step of confiscating the interpreter’s notes. Afterward, intelligence officials again expressed concern that the President may have improperly discussed classified intelligence with Russia, according to an intelligence source with knowledge of the intelligence community’s response to the Trump-Putin meeting.
The secret removal of the high-level Russian asset has left the US without one of its key sources on the inner workings of the Kremlin and the plans and thinking of the Russian president at a time when tensions between the two nations have been growing. The US intelligence community considers Russia one of the two greatest threats to US national security, along with China.
“The impact would be huge because it is so hard to develop sources like that in any denied area, particularly Russia, because the surveillance and security there is so stringent,” a former senior intelligence official told CNN. “You can’t reacquire a capability like that overnight.”
The decision to pull the asset out of Russia was the culmination of months of mounting fear within the intelligence community.
At the end of the Obama administration, US intelligence officials had already expressed concerns about the safety of this spy and other Russian assets, given the length of their cooperation with the US, according to a former senior intelligence official.
In the first months of his administration, Trump’s handling of classified intelligence further concerned intelligence officials. Ultimately, they decided to launch the difficult operation to remove an asset who had been working for the US for years.
The President was informed in advance of the extraction, along with a small number of senior officials. Details of the extraction itself remain secret and the whereabouts of the asset today are unknown to CNN.
Much, much more at the link, including Sciutto reporting that this happened when Secretary Pompeo was the Director of Central Intelligence. It would not surprise me in the least to find out that Sciutto was originally tipped to this story by Ambassador Bolton, given that he and Secretary Pompeo are increasingly at odds these days. Ambassador Bolton has been largely sidelined on Afghanistan policy* and it has been reported that it is Secretary Pompeo, who is clearly eclipsing all others right now regarding US foreign and national security policy, who has sidelined Bolton. This type of selective leak as a form of bureaucratic knife fighting is a Bolton specialty.
Sciutto’s story is not surprising. I wrote here several times in the first several months of this administration that the Intelligence Community would be tightening up their compartmentalization of information to protect sources and methods from the President and some of his key political appointees like his son in law Jared Kushner. This reporting will, however, only reinforce the President’s paranoia about, fear of, and anger at the Intelligence Community. Sciutto has reported that the President and several key senior officials were read on to the operation, but I’d be willing to wager real money that neither the President, nor his senior officials who were read on to this operation were given the meat of his reporting that the extraction was done over concern that the President might burn the asset. Retired CIA officer Robert Baer’s interview about Sciutto’s reporting on CNN about a 1/2 an hour ago isn’t going to help either. Baer, who is also a CNN contributor and analyst, stated in no uncertain terms that “the CIA has never trusted the President since he visited the Soviet Union in 1987”. There aren’t any clips of that up yet, but I guarantee it is waiting for the President to watch it on his super TIVO.
This is going to be the best Infrastructure Week ever!
* I’ll have more about both the Camp David insanity, which was already starting to be broken down by reporting as of last night, and Secretary Pompeo’s bizarre assertion that we killed 10,000 Taliban in the past ten days later today.