Trump administration extracted US spy from inside Russia government in 2017, report says

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The US secretly extricated a top spy from Russia shortly after Donald Trump hosted the Russian foreign minister and ambassador to the US in the Oval Office and appeared to reveal highly classified intelligence, CNN has reported.

The previously undisclosed operation to remove the highly-placed American spy happened in 2017 but has only now come to light, the broadcaster said, citing “multiple Trump administration officials”.

White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham denied the claims, saying: “CNN’s reporting is not only incorrect, it has the potential to put lives in danger.”

The CNN report indicates that the spy, placed in the Russian government, was removed at least in part over concerns that Mr Trump had mishandled classified information during an Oval Office meeting with then-Russian ambassador to the US Sergei Kislyak and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.

The information Mr Trump disclosed to the Russians was related to intelligence about Isis in Syria, and had been provided by Israel.

While that intelligence was not directly related to the spy in the Russian government, the disclosure nevertheless sparked a discussion among intelligence officials about potential exposure. 

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“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 CIA spokesperson told the news outlet when contacted.