The Washington Post reported today that President Trump revealed classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador last week, during a meeting that no U.S. news organizations were allowed to attend. The New York Times also confirmed the Post allegations.
This information breaks almost one week after the president fired former FBI director James Comey, as the bureau moves forward with an investigation specifically centered on ties between the Trump administration and Russia.
According to the Post’s sources, which include current and former U.S. officials, President Trump revealed highly classified material to the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. This information, related to military operations against ISIS, reportedly hadn’t even been shared with U.S. military allies. During a conversation with Lavrov, President Trump allegedly boasted, “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day,” before sharing the material, which had been gathered from a U.S. intelligence partner.
Multiple White House officials have since spoken out against the Post’s allegations, including national security advisor H.R. McMaster, who was present during last week’s meeting:
“The president and the foreign minister reviewed common threats from terrorist organizations to include threats to aviation. At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed, and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly.”
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson released the following statement:
“During President Trump’s meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov a broad range of subjects were discussed among which were common efforts and threats regarding counter-terrorism. During that exchange the nature of specific threats were discussed, but they did not discuss sources, methods or military operations.”
Both of those statements reference “sources or methods,” which are not directly mentioned in the original Post report. Only Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy Dina Powell, who was also in attendance during the meeting, shared a more clear-cut statement:
“This story is false. The president only discussed the common threats that both countries faced.”
It is worth noting that the president can declassify information by sharing it, making such information… unclassified. What current and former intelligence officials find shocking is the potential endangering of sources and of U.S. ally intelligence networks – especially since this information had come from a U.S. ally who hadn’t authorized its sharing.
Update 5/16, 8:40 p.m. EST: According to the New York Times, the U.S. ally who hadn’t authorized the sharing of sensitive intelligence was Israel, say a current and a former American official. Israeli officials have not confirmed that they were the source of the intel. In a statement emailed to the Times, Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer shared:
“Israel has full confidence in our intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States and looks forward to deepening that relationship in the years ahead under President Trump.”