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2019-09-10 16:28:521 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
While Donald Trump is mired in his claim that former President Barack Obama ordered the FBI to spy on his 2016 campaign, setting up the Russia investigation, it turns out there was much more going on. The knowledge of Russia's interference in the election went much deeper than Trump's campaign.
The source, who for safety reasons remains hidden and unnamed, was recruited by the CIA many years ago. He was a mid-level Russian official who was moving quickly up through the government. Eventually he was awarded with a position with access to Putin.
Once American officials became aware of Russia interfering in the 2016 election, the informant became even more important. Later that year when U.S. intelligence revealed the extent of Russia's election interference, the news media keyed in on the CIA's sources at the Kremlin.
CIA officials had concerns about the safety of the source and made the decision in late 2016 to offer to extract their longtime informant. The informant refused because of family concerns, to the dismay of the CIA, who began to doubt the trustworthiness of the information. Eventually they pressed the informant a second time to leave, and this time the offer was accepted.
This hampered the Russia investigation, as it was this source who was able to provide that inside view of Russia as well as confirm the interference into elections with the 2018 midterm elections approaching, as well as the upcoming 2020 election.
Current and former officials believe the informant's life remains in danger, holding up the attempted assassination last year of Sergei V. Skripal, a former Russian intelligence official who moved to Britain in 2010 as part of a spy exchange.
The informant was the U.S. government's best source of information from inside the Kremlin and Putin's thinking. Not only were they able to confirm the election interference, but that Putin preferred to have Trump win and that he personally ordered the hacking of the Democratic National Committee emails.
The information that the source provided was so sensitive that it became really important to protect the identity of the source.
The CIA director at the time, John O. Brennan, did not include the information in former President Barack Obama's news briefings, with it instead being sent in sealed envelopes to the Oval Office.
The CIA became doubtful of the informant after the first offer of exfiltration was rejected. They wondered if the source became a double agent and was now working for Russia.
Those doubts were put to rest when the informant accepted the second offer to leave.
Part of the reasoning behind the decision to extract the informant was due to concerns that Trump and his administration had mishandled sensitive intelligence, according to CNN. Former intelligence officials report there was no public evidence that Trump directly put the source in danger. Other officials insist it was the media's scrutiny of sources that was behind the extraction.
Two weeks before Trump's inauguration, he was first briefed on the intelligence from the Russian informant, as well as other information about the Russian interference.
Some former intelligence officials point to Trump's closed-door meetings with Putin and tweets that include sensitive intelligence matters as creating concern among foreign sources.
"We have a president who, unlike any other president in modern history, is willing to use sensitive, classified intelligence however he sees fit, " said former CIA official Steven L. Hall, who led the Russia operations. "He does it in front of our adversaries. He does it by tweet. We are in uncharted waters."
With growing interest by the media in the Russian election interference, U.S. officials updated the extraction plan, according to people familiar with the event.
The former director of national intelligence under Obama, James R. Clapper Jr., said he had no knowledge of the decision to extract the informant. He also said there was little doubt that the revelations about the extraction were "going to make recruiting assets in Russia even more difficult than it already is."
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