As American officials began to realize that Russia was trying to sabotage the 2016 presidential election, the informant became one of the C.I.A.’s most important — and highly protected — assets. But when intelligence officials revealed the severity of Russia’s election interference with unusual detail later that year, the news media picked up on details about the C.I.A.’s Kremlin sources.
C.I.A. officials worried about safety made the arduous decision in late 2016 to offer to extract the source from Russia. The situation grew more tense when the informant at first refused, citing family concerns — prompting consternation at C.I.A. headquarters and sowing doubts among some American counterintelligence officials about the informant’s trustworthiness. But the C.I.A. pressed again months later after more media inquiries. This time, the informant agreed.
CNN is standing by its reporting that the U.S. pulled its source from Russia in 2017, in part out of concern that the Trump administration had “repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source as a spy.”
But both the White House and the CIA slammed the reporting, with the latter calling the reporting “misguided” and “simply false.”
The New York Times also published a piece late in the evening, which largely contradicted CNN’s story. According to the Times, CIA officials “made the arduous decision in late 2016 to offer to extract the source from Russia” — weeks before Trump took office.