by Itunuoluwa Adebo
President Donald Trump allegedly revealed classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to the Washington Post.
Former and current White House sources said Trump’s disclosures jeopardised 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.
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.”
The revelation comes as the president faces rising legal and political pressure on multiple Russia-related fronts. He fired FBI Director, James Comey in the midst of a bureau investigation into possible links between the Trump campaign and Moscow. The day after dismissing Comey, the White House welcomed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, into the Oval Office. 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.
National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster who participated in the meeting said Trump discussed only shared concerns about terrorism. “The president and the foreign minister reviewed common threats from terrorist organisations 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.”
The CIA declined to comment, and the NSA did not respond to requests for comment. But officials expressed concern about Trump’s handling of sensitive information as well as his grasp of the potential consequences. Exposure of an intelligence stream that has provided critical insight into the Islamic State, they said, could hinder the United States’ and its allies’ ability to detect future threats.
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.
A former intelligence official who handled high-level intelligence on Russia said that given the clues Trump provided, “I don’t think that it would be that hard [for Russian spy services] to figure this out.
“If that partner learned we’d given this to Russia without their knowledge or asking first, that is a blow to that relationship,” the U.S. official said.