The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency had a source with high-level access to the Kremlin who played a key role in the assessment that President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign aimed at the 2016 U.S. election, The New York Times and CNN reported Monday.
Neither U.S. news organization identified the source by name, but several Russian outlets did so.
At a Tuesday news briefing, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the person named in the Russian reports did work for the Russian president’s office, but not in a high-ranking position and did not have direct contact with Putin. Peskov also said the person was “fired several years ago.”
Both news organizations said the source was extracted from Russia in 2017 after declining an earlier offer to leave the country.
CNN said the decision to pull the source out of such a valuable position was made in part because of concerns of mishandling classified information by President Donald Trump and members of his administration. The CIA rejected that statement, telling CNN it only makes decisions based on “objective analysis and sound collection.”
The Times linked the extraction to media coverage of the revelations about the Russian election interference campaign and questions about a source in the Kremlin. It said the source’s life is in danger, and pointed to the example of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian agent who was convicted of spying for Britain and was poisoned with a nerve agent last year.
The reports say the loss of an asset with such access within the Kremlin has left the U.S. intelligence community without information about Russia’s current actions and any plans to influence other elections.