The CIA Reportedly Pulled Its Top Spy from Russia Because Trump Can't Keep His Mouth Shut
Not even a year into Donald Trump's presidency , the CIA took the extraordinary step of removing one of its most valuable assets inside the Russian government. According to CNN , multiple Trump administration officials with direct knowledge of the situation claimed that the agency made the decision out of concern that Trump or members of his administration would wind up exposing the spy, inadvertently or otherwise. The CIA's move reportedly came after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office, when Trump shared highly classified information about ISIS, supplied by Israel, with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak.
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. At the time, then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo told other senior Trump administration 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.
When asked for comment, CIA director of public affairs Brittany Bramell told the network, "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. 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." A White House representative said, "CNN's reporting is not only incorrect, it has the potential to put lives in danger," while a spokesperson for Mike Pompeo, who was in charge of the CIA at the time, declined to comment.
But Trump's "handling of our nation's most sensitive intelligence" has been a problem in the past. While the Department of Defense rarely discloses the locations of submarines, in a 2017 phone call with Rodrigo Duterte, Trump told the president of the Philippines that the U.S. had two nuclear subs stationed near North Korea. Trump has also gone to great lengths to keep his private discussions with Russian president Vladimir Putin completely secret, hiding details of the talks from his own administration's officials and even going so far as to confiscate his interpreter's notes. And on August 30 of this year, he tweeted what appeared to be a high-definition image of an Iranian launch site, saying, "The United States of America was not involved in the catastrophic accident during final launch preparations for the Safir [Space Launch Vehicle] Launch at Semnan Launch Site One in Iran. I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One." Security experts warned that the image was almost certainly from a classified drone or satellite, according to NPR , and one expert explained the tweet showed "some pretty amazing capabilities that the public simply wasn't privy to before this."
Trump's administration as a whole has struggled with classified information: After the 2017 bombing at Manchester Arena in the United Kingdom, the British government shared sensitive information about the attack with key allies, the U.S. among them. Someone in the Trump administration very quickly leaked that information to the media, a move that so angered then-prime minister Theresa May she reportedly confronted Trump about it at a NATO summit. And Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign manager Paul Manafort were both indicted for working as agents for foreign governments.
Despite all this, Trump is still campaigning against Hillary Clinton's use of a private server and handling classified emails, even though she isn't running in 2020. At an August rally in New Hampshire , he brought up her emails yet again, and the crowd began chanting, "lock her up."