Patterico's Pontifications

5/15/2017

Washington Post: President Trump Revealed Highly Classified Info To Russian Officials (Update Added)

Filed under: General — Dana @ 4:01 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Here we go:

President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.

The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.

The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said Trump’s decision to do so endangers cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. After Trump’s meeting, senior White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency.

“This is code-word information,” said a U.S. official familiar with the matter, using terminology that refers to one of the highest classification levels used by American spy agencies. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”

It was during that meeting, officials said, that Trump went off script and began describing details of an Islamic State terrorist threat related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft…

Further:

In his meeting with Lavrov, Trump seemed to be boasting about his inside knowledge of the looming threat. “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day,” the president said, according to an official with knowledge of the exchange.

Trump went on to discuss aspects of the threat that the United States learned only through the espionage capabilities of a key partner. He did not reveal the specific intelligence-gathering method, but he described how the Islamic State was pursuing elements of a specific plot and how much harm such an attack could cause under varying circumstances. Most alarmingly, officials said, Trump revealed the city in the Islamic State’s territory where the U.S. intelligence partner detected the threat.

The report clarifies that President Trump “has broad authority to declassify government secrets, making it unlikely that his disclosures broke the law.”

This statement from H.R. McMaster is being volleyed back and forth by various factions as to whether it is a denial of the story, or a tacit confirmation of it:

“The president and the foreign minister reviewed common threats from terrorist organizations to include threats to aviation,” said H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, who participated in the meeting. “At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed, and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly.”

The White House has begun to push back against the story, with Deputy NSA Dina Powell claiming that it’s false:

“This story is false. The president only discussed the common threats that both countries faced.”

Allahpundit raises a couple of interesting points:

Two U.S. officials told BuzzFeed after WaPo’s story dropped that it’s true and “it’s far worse than what has already been reported.” Reportedly the Senate Intelligence Committee has been briefed about it. Exit question one: Hey, remember this story from January? Exit question two via David Frum: If you’re a U.S. natsec professional, how do you prevent this from happening again? Start withholding information from the president? There’s no way to stop him from blurting out classified info in the course of conversation once the conversation’s begun. The only way is to keep it from him in the first place. Although the fact that this incredibly embarrassing mishap has been leaked may be their way of trying to shame Trump into preparing more diligently for meetings going forward and being far more careful about what he says. (Especially since he’s leaving on his first foreign trip as president soon.) In the end, maybe the only way to get through to him is with bad press.

Apparently National Security Adviser HR McMaster will be addressing the Washington Post report any moment.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

UPDATE:
Untitled

UPDATE 2: McMaster at this morning’s presser. Relevant portion begins at the 30:23 mark:

–Dana


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