During a meeting in the Oval Office with two top Russian officials on May 10, Donald Trump revealed “highly classified” intelligence information about the United States’ fight against the ISIS terror threat — a move that one top security official described as “shocking” and “reckless,” according to an explosive report in Monday’s Washington Post newspaper.
Trump’s startling leak, which apparently came in the form of an “off script” boast to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador, also betrayed the confidence of a key United States ally in the fight against ISIS, the Post reported. The intelligence revealed by Trump came through “an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government,” the paper reported.
UPDATE 5/15, 7 p.m. EDT: Two news organizations have now independently confirmed the Washington Post report on Trump’s leak of “highly classified” intelligence about ISIS.
According to sources speaking to the New York Times, Trump offered the Russians “details that could expose the source of the information and the manner in which it was collected.”
A separate report by the online publication BuzzFeed quoted a U.S. official who warned that Trump’s exposure of classified information was “far worse than what has already been reported.”
Read the entire Washington Post report on the bizarre leak by Trump to the Russians by accessing this link.
The information that Trump revealed to the Russian officials is so sensitive, that it has been redacted in the official White House transcript of the meeting, The Post reported.
National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, who also attended the meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak — both pictured at the top of this page — denied that Trump had made any inappropriate revelations.
“The president and the foreign minister reviewed common threats from terrorist organizations to include threats to aviation,” McMaster told Post reporters Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe.
“At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly.”
However, Newsweek reporter Kurt Eichenwald noted that McMaster never actually denied the allegations in the Post story — that Trump had disclosed the substance of non-military intelligence.
Wow. Reading how McMaster threaded the needle in his denial – never denied non-military intel ITSELF was disclosed – this story must be true
— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) May 16, 2017
Other officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, were more blunt in describing Trump’s intelligence leak to Miller and Jaffe. In fact, they said, Trump went “off script” to reveal “code word information” regarding a recent threat by ISIS to use laptop computers to conceal bombs placed aboard commercial airline flights, the reporters wrote.
The threat of laptop bombs is what led both the United States and Britain in March to ban laptop computers from flights originating in eight predominately Muslim countries, though the British ban applied to only six such countries.
“It is all kind of shocking,” said one former U.S. official described by The Post as “close” to the current administration.
“Trump seems to be very reckless, and doesn’t grasp the gravity of the things he’s dealing with… And it’s all clouded because of this problem he has with Russia.”
The Oval Office meeting in which Trump reportedly revealed the highly sensitive classified information took place the next morning after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, which happened in the early evening of Tuesday, May 9. In an NBC News interview on May 11, Trump acknowledged that he fired Comey because of what Trump referred to as “the Russia thing.”
Comey in March revealed publicly for the first time that the FBI was investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian interests to tamper with the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.
Trump had previously been the target of criticism for holding a White House meeting with top Russian officials immediately after firing the FBI Director investigating the Trump-Russia ties. But he was also criticized for banning U.S. media from the meeting — while allowing a photographer from the Russian state-run propaganda organization TASS into the Oval Office during the meeting.
According to critics, including a former CIA Deputy Director, Trump may have committed a serious security breach by allowing a Russian government photographer, complete with a full compliment of digital photographic equipment, unrestricted access to the Oval Office.
When the TASS photos appeared on the Getty Images news wire and in hundreds of newspapers and online sites in the U.S. and around the world, White House officials complained that they had been “tricked” by the Russians.
WH furious over Russian government photos of Trump meeting with Lavrov/Kislyak. “They tricked us,” an official said of Russians “They lie.”
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) May 11, 2017
Not only does the possibility remain that the TASS photographer would have the opportunity to gather intelligence or even plant surveillance devices inside the Oval Office, but the photos drew the ire of Trump and his staff because they revealed that Kislyak attended the meeting — when his presence had not been announced in the official White House schedule.
Kislyak met with Trump associates during the campaign last year — including now-attorney General Jeff Sessions and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who both later lied about having met Kislyak, who is suspected of acting as a top Russian recruiter of U.S. spies.
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[Featured Image by Russian Foreign Ministry/Getty Images]