The New York Times reports that the Russian intelligence asset that the CIA was force to extract after Trump inadvertently burned them by giving classified information to two Russian officials had been leaking information to use for decades — including much of the work that showed Putin had personally ordered interference and hacking in the 2016 election in order to help Trump win.
The Times said this asset was originally recruited, successfully, as a mid-level bureaucrat, but they ended up being given a very high-ranking position in the Kremlin that gave them access to nearly all the major decision-making that went on from that point on. Trump almost certainly did not know who this asset was or what information they provided and his leak only accidentally burned them, but the fact that they provided the crucial evidence of Putin’s personal orders on supporting Trump with propaganda and by hacking Democratic officials turns out to have been a happy coincidence for him (and unhappy for everyone else).
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.
The move brought to an end the career of one of the C.I.A.’s most important sources. It also effectively blinded American intelligence officials to the view from inside Russia as they sought clues about Kremlin interference in the 2018 midterm elections and next year’s presidential contest…
The Moscow informant was instrumental to the C.I.A.’s most explosive conclusion about Russia’s interference campaign: that President Vladimir V. Putin ordered and orchestrated it himself. As the American government’s best insight into the thinking of and orders from Mr. Putin, the source was also key to the C.I.A.’s assessment that he affirmatively favored Donald J. Trump’s election and personally ordered the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.
The CIA became very concerned after Trump blurted our classified information to the Russian Foreign Minister and Ambassador in the Oval Office, but that concern got very serious after he met privately with Putin himself at a G20 meeting in Germany and took the extraordinary step of confiscating the interpreters notes and ordering them to remain silent, even when asked by other administration officials about it. That set off huge alarm bells and forced the CIA to move ahead with the extraction plan, which the source initially refused out of concern for their family.
They won’t say who the source is or where they are now, of course, because Trump has been known to kill defectors even after they reach the West, like Sergey Skripal in the UK. I certainly hope he’s well protected and taken care of.