The Trump administration is denouncing U.S. media reports that it evacuated a high-level CIA spy out of Moscow after he revealed that President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election in favor of Donald Trump.
The reports say U.S. officials were worried the mole was about to be exposed because of the controversy in the U.S. surrounding the Russian interference.
He was ordered out of Russia, refused to leave, but then decided to go because of the risk of exposure.
“I’ve seen that reporting. The reporting is materially inaccurate,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday without saying exactly what he believes the media got wrong.
Pompeo was CIA chief in 2017 when the spy was apparently brought out of Russia.
“It is only the occasions where there is something that I think puts people at risk or the reporting is so egregious as to create enormous risk to the United States of America that I even comment in the way I just did,” Pompeo added.
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said the media reports are dangerous and put lives at risk.
CNN reports one reason the informant was evacuated was because of Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified information that could have also led to his exposure. A CIA spokesman calls this “inaccurate.”
Russian media identified the suspected spy as Oleg Smolenkov.
According to the U.S. news reports, the CIA recruited Smolenkov several decades ago. He gradually rose up in the Russian government bureaucracy to become what The New York Times describes as one of the CIA’s “most important and highly protected assets” who had access to Putin.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday Smolenkov did indeed work in Putin’s office, but at a low-level and never had direct contact with the president. He also said Smolenkov was “fired several years ago.”
Peskov described the U.S. news reports as “pulp fiction.”
Putin has consistently denied his government interfered in the 2016 U.S. election and Trump has backed Putin’s assertion even after U.S. intelligence said there is no doubt about Russian meddling.