Trump shared se­cret info about IS with Rus­sians

Cape Breton Post - - World -

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump re­vealed highly clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion about Is­lamic State mil­i­tants to Rus­sian of­fi­cials dur­ing a meet­ing last week, The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported Mon­day, prompt­ing strong con­dem­na­tion from both Democrats and Repub­li­cans.

Three White House of­fi­cials who were in the May 10 meet­ing strongly de­nounced the story, say­ing no in­tel­li­gence sources and meth­ods were dis­cussed — but they didn’t deny that clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion was dis­closed.

Cit­ing cur­rent and for­mer U.S. of­fi­cials, the Post said Trump shared de­tails about an Is­lamic State ter­ror threat re­lated to the use of lap­top com­put­ers on air­craft with Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov and Rus­sian Am­bas­sador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak.

The anony­mous of­fi­cials told the Post that the in­for­ma­tion Trump re­layed dur­ing the Oval Of­fice meet­ing had been pro­vided by a U.S. part­ner through an in­tel­li­gence-shar­ing ar­range­ment. They said it was con­sid­ered so sen­si­tive that de­tails have been with­held from al­lies and tightly re­stricted even within the U.S. govern­ment.

“I was in the room, it didn’t hap­pen,’’ H.R. McMaster, Trump’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, told reporters out­side the White House late Mon­day.

“The pres­i­dent and the for­eign min­is­ter re­viewed a range of com­mon threats to our two coun­tries in­clud­ing threats to civil avi­a­tion,’’ McMaster said. “At no time, at no time were in­tel­li­gence sources or meth­ods dis­cussed and the pres­i­dent did not dis­close any mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions that were not al­ready pub­licly known.’’

He said Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son and Dina Pow­ell, deputy na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser for strat­egy, re­mem­ber the meet­ing the same way. “Their on-the-record ac­counts should out­weigh those of anony­mous sources’’ in the news re­port, he said.

Tiller­son said Trump dis­cussed a range of sub­jects, in­clud­ing “com­mon ef­forts and threats re­gard­ing coun­tert­er­ror­ism.’’ He said that dur­ing that ex­change the na­ture of spe­cific threats were dis­cussed, but they did not dis­cuss sources, meth­ods or mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions.

Pow­ell said: “This story is false. The pres­i­dent only dis­cussed the com­mon threats that both coun­tries faced.’’

The Post story — which was later con­firmed by The New York Times and Buz­zFeed News — does not claim that Trump re­vealed any spe­cific in­for­ma­tion about how the in­tel­li­gence was gath­ered. Still, it will only heighten Trump’s strained re­la­tions with in­tel­li­gence work­ers and for­mer of­fi­cials, who view Rus­sia as an ad­ver­sary.

Even be­fore he was in­au­gu­rated, in­tel­li­gence pro­fes­sion­als wor­ried about shar­ing clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion with Trump, who of­ten shoots from the hip.

If true, the breach was ill­timed, com­ing a day af­ter Trump fired for­mer FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey, who was lead­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian med­dling in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Trump’s first na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, Michael Flynn, was fired af­ter he mis­led Vice-Pres­i­dent Mike Pence about con­ver­sa­tions he had with Ki­sy­lak.

It’s un­likely that Trump has bro­ken any law. As pres­i­dent, Trump has broad author­ity to de­clas­sify govern­ment se­crets.

The Post said the in­tel­li­gence part­ner had not given the United States per­mis­sion to share the ma­te­rial with Rus­sian of­fi­cials. By do­ing so, Trump would have jeop­ar­dized co-op­er­a­tion from an ally fa­mil­iar with the in­ner work­ings of the Is­lamic State group, and make other al­lies — or even U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials — wary about shar­ing fu­ture top se­cret de­tails with the pres­i­dent.

Af­ter­ward, White House of­fi­cials took steps to con­tain the dam­age, plac­ing calls to the CIA and the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency, the news­pa­per said.

The CIA and the Of­fice of the Di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence de­clined to com­ment Mon­day even­ing.

Con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans and Democrats ex­pressed con­cern about the re­port.

GOP Sen. Bob Corker of Ten­nessee, chair­man of the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, told reporters the Trump White House “has got to do some­thing soon to bring it­self un­der con­trol and or­der.’’

“The shame of it is there’s a re­ally good na­tional se­cu­rity team in place and there are good, pro­duc­tive things that are un­der way through them and through oth­ers,’’ Corker said. “But the chaos that is be­ing cre­ated by the lack of dis­ci­pline — it’s cre­at­ing an en­vi­ron­ment that I think makes — it cre­ates a wor­ri­some en­vi­ron­ment.’’

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chair­man of the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, said, “We cer­tainly don’t want any pres­i­dent to leak clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion, but the pres­i­dent does have the right to do that.’’

Re­ac­tion from Democrats on the House and Se­nate in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tees was full-throated.

AP PHOTO

Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser H.R. McMaster speaks to the me­dia out­side the West Wing of the White House in Wash­ing­ton, Mon­day.

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