Vladimir Putin’s top spokesman swears there wasn’t an American spy hiding out under his boss’ nose, but Russia’s state media is already taking great pains to smear the man identified in American news outlets as the CIA’s top spy in Moscow as nothing more than a fired, low-level staffer who loved to drink “a bit more than the usual person.” A host of news outlets have now reported that the high-level spy made a quick exit from Russia in 2017 after alerting American intelligence to Putin’s plot to meddle in the 2016 elections. The Daily Beast visited a home in the Washington area on Monday that appeared to be linked to a Russian official who mysteriously vanished in 2017 but only came away with more questions.
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Damage control: In the face of mounting reports about a spy in its midst, senior Russian officials sought to refute claims that the CIA had recruited a spy with access to Putin’s files and inner circle. Both Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied rumors circulated in the Russian media that a former official who had apparently left the country was privy to the kinds of secrets the source reported by CNN and The New York Times allegedly enjoyed.