In a breaking news story out of Washington D.C., it is now being reported that Donald Trump revealed what has been called “highly classified information” to a visiting Russian foreign minister and ambassador during their visit to the White House last week. What’s more, the ex and current U.S. officials (at least two) who came forward with the accusations of improper sharing of classified information are also claiming that the info shared by Trump puts a “critical source” of Islamic State intelligence in jeopardy.
As MSN News reports, the story was originally reported by The Washington Post, and former and current U.S. officials close to the White House claim that Donald Trump revealed the highly classified information on May 10 during a closed-door meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak. The information Trump reportedly spilled has been deemed so sensitive that it’s been referred to as “code-word information,” and it is so highly classified that it shouldn’t even be shared with allies of the United States, let alone Russian diplomats.
“This is code-word information. [Trump] revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”
The United States intelligence community reportedly came by the highly classified, Islamic State-related information through an intelligence sharing information from a source revealed only as a “U.S. partner” – a partner that had not given the United States permission to share the highly classified information with Russia. In fact, the information was so secret that its details have reportedly been withheld among members of the United States’ own government officials.
— The Independent (@Independent) May 15, 2017
It has been reported that because Donald Trump allegedly shared highly classified information, the relationship between the United States and their partner who provided it has been compromised. That partner, who has not been named, is reportedly considered an ally with direct access to what is going on behind the scenes of the Islamic State. The seriousness of the information being shared was so dire that after Trump allegedly chose to share the highly classified information with the duo of Russian diplomats last week, high-level officials within the White House were forced to do some serious damage control.
The damage control reportedly included making contact with some of the United States’ intelligence agencies, including the CIA and NSA.
However, despite the highly classified nature of the information Donald Trump reportedly shared with his Russian visitors, he was most likely within his scope of authority as POTUS to choose to do so. While most government employees are highly restricted and could face serious career and legal consequences for sharing classified information, the acting POTUS is largely exempt from those regulations. Trump has a substantial amount of leeway and authority when it comes to decisions regarding the declassification of government secrets; as such, it is unlikely that last week’s alleged revelations to the Russian diplomats broke any laws.
Even so, the news that Trump willingly shared highly classified information with the Russians could hardly come at a worse time for the president. He is currently under the microscope over his firing of FBI director James Comey, who was overseeing the investigation into the alleged ties Trump and his campaign had (or have) to Russia. It is likely that today’s revelations will give Trump’s critics more fuel for their collective fire.
However, at least one source claims that Trump merely reviewed “common threats” with the Russian ambassador. National security adviser H.R. McMaster was part of the meeting in question, and he is publicly defending Donald Trump.
“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.”
Trump's sharing of classified information isn't illegal because they thought no president would ever be stupid enough to do it.
— morelikespace (@kate_macdonald) May 15, 2017
Going to be really cool and fun when Trump rails against the people leaking about him leaking classified information.
— Alexander Goot (@AGoot18) May 15, 2017
— Thunder (@jerrywallsf) May 15, 2017
— Stu (@XIBASH) May 15, 2017
While McMaster apparently had Trump’s back, other senior U.S. officials are concerned with the way the POTUS handled the highly classified information when speaking with the Russian diplomats and are reportedly specifically worried that he doesn’t understand the “potential consequences” of his actions.
“It is all kind of shocking. Trump seems to be very reckless, and doesn’t grasp the gravity of the things he’s dealing with, especially when it comes to intelligence and national security. And it’s all clouded because of this problem he has with Russia.”
— Dejban Law (@dejbanlaw) May 15, 2017
At least one source, a U.S. government official who is described as having “knowledge” of Trump’s interaction with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov last week said that the POTUS appeared to boast to the Russian diplomat about having classified information about a current threat.
“I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day.”
Donald Trump then reportedly went on to describe in detail a looming threat, including the name of the city where the U.S.’s intelligence ally reportedly gathered the classified information that was shared with the U.S. intelligence community. It is the name of that city that U.S. intelligence officials are most concerned about Trump sharing with his Russian guests, particularly when it comes to protecting their highly-valued and classified Islamic State source.
“Russia could identify our sources or techniques. I don’t think that it would be that hard [for Russian spy services] to figure this out.”
According to sources who witnessed the exchange between Trump and Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister responded to the revelation of highly classified information by calling for the U.S. and Russia to work more closely in fighting global terrorism.
— Grand Duke Dazza W (@dazza_double_u) May 15, 2017
This isn’t the first time that Trump has raised eyebrows when communicating with foreign leaders and other officials Earlier this year, he managed to offend the Australian Prime minister in a phone call. As The New York Times reports, Trump caused a rift between the U.S. and its Australian ally after hanging up on that country’s Prime Minister. It has been reported that Donald Trump refuses to utilize the multi-page National Security Council briefs that are prepared for the POTUS to assist him with conversing with foreign leaders and diplomats. Trump has reportedly even largely refused to use the condensed single-page versions of the briefs, a version he is said to have demanded. Rather, he frequently opts to “wing it” when engaging other world leaders.
“He seems to get in the room or on the phone and just goes with it — and that has big downsides. Does he understand what’s classified and what’s not? That’s what worries me.”
Neither the NSA nor CIA have yet to comment on the reports of Trump revealing classified information to his Russian visitors last week in D.C. Trump has also remained mum regarding the allegations.
While Donald Trump is unlikely to face legal fall-out from allegedly sharing highly classified information with Russian diplomats last week, it’s worth noting that the White House readout of the meeting didn’t note that Trump had discussed the Islamic State threat with Lavrov and Kislyak in any capacity, classified or otherwise.
[Featured Image by Russian Foreign Ministry Photo via AP Images]