Trump’s loose lips on in­tel­li­gence-shar­ing rat­tle a few ships in Wash­ing­ton

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - ALEXAN­DER PANETTA

WASH­ING­TON — Cana­dian politi­cians had an up-close van­tage point as an­other po­lit­i­cal storm was rolling into Wash­ing­ton. Just as news broke that Don­ald Trump had revealed clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion to the Rus­sian govern­ment, two fed­eral cab­i­net min­is­ters headed for din­ner at the State De­part­ment.

Chrys­tia Free­land and Har­jit Sa­j­jan dined with their United States coun­ter­parts for for­eign af­fairs and de­fence — Rex Tiller­son and James Mat­tis. The day’s drama was not a ma­jor topic of din­ner con­ver­sa­tion, based on the read­out pro­vided by the U.S. govern­ment.

The Cana­dian govern­ment tip­toed Tues­day around the ques­tion of whether the news had done any­thing to rat­tle faith in ex­chang­ing in­tel­li­gence with the U.S.

“We have a long-stand­ing re­la­tion­ship that has proven to be very valu­able over the long term,” Pub­lic Safety Min­is­ter Ralph Goodale said in Ot­tawa.

But there were some frayed nerves in Wash­ing­ton.

Sev­eral Repub­li­cans ex­pressed con­cern Tues­day about the dra­maa-day White House — which in a sin­gle week fired the FBI di­rec­tor; told dif­fer­ent sto­ries about why; be­came the tar­get of a con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tion that’s ex­pand­ing into money-laun­der­ing; shared in­tel­li­gence with Rus­sia; and of­fered shift­ing ex­pla­na­tions.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion ini­tially dis­counted the de­tails of re­ports in the Wash­ing­ton Post, New York Times, Buz­zfeed and else­where that the pres­i­dent gave the Russians a de­tail about ter­ror­ist bomb-mak­ing that might help it iden­tify U.S. sources in the Mid­dle East.

But the pres­i­dent ad­mit­ted the ba­sic de­tails on Twit­ter — and he said it was no big deal.

“As Pres­i­dent I wanted to share with Rus­sia, ... which I have the ab­so­lute right to do, facts per­tain­ing to ter­ror­ism and air­line flight safety,” he tweeted Tues­day. What’s most im­por­tant, the pres­i­dent said, is that au­thor­i­ties “find the leakers in the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity.”

The lat­est drama has rat­tled al­ready shaky con­fi­dence in the pres­i­dent in Wash­ing­ton.

Top Se­nate Repub­li­can Mitch McCon­nell told Bloomberg: “I think we can do with a lit­tle less drama from the White House on a lot of things so that we can fo­cus on our agenda.”

Repub­li­can law­maker Mike Gal­lagher, a for­mer U.S. Marine who served in Iraq, asked to see the tran­script of Trump’s con­ver­sa­tion with the Russians. His col­league Bar­bara Com­stock called the re­ports “highly trou­bling” and de­manded clas­si­fied brief­ings. Sen. Su­san Collins said the re­lease of the in­for­ma­tion had the po­ten­tial to “jeop­ar­dize sources and to dis­cour­age our al­lies from shar­ing fu­ture in­for­ma­tion vi­tal to our se­cu­rity.”

Dif­fer­ent news re­ports said the orig­i­nal in­for­ma­tion came from Is­raeli in­tel­li­gence. It’s un­clear whether the U.S. in­formed the Is­raelis it might share the in­for­ma­tion with the Russians, who have dif­fer­ent al­lies in the re­gion — no­tably Iran.

The Is­raelis said they had full con­fi­dence in the in­tel­li­gence-shar­ing re­la­tion­ship with the U.S., con­tra­dict­ing re­ports ear­lier this year that the Is­raelis had con­sid­ered with­hold­ing se­crets from Trump, at the urg­ing of Amer­i­can col­leagues wor­ried about their own boss.

Trump’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser also in­sisted Tues­day the story was no big deal.

He was in the room last week when the pres­i­dent shared the in­for­ma­tion with Rus­sia’s for­eign min­is­ter and U.S. am­bas­sador at the White House.

“What I’m say­ing is re­ally the premise of that ar­ti­cle is false, that in any way the pres­i­dent had a con­ver­sa­tion that was in­ap­pro­pri­ate or that re­sulted in any kind of lapse in — in na­tional se­cu­rity,” H.R. McMaster told a White House brief­ing.

CHIP SOMODEVILLA, GETTY IM­AGES

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell talks to re­porters with fel­low Repub­li­can sen­a­tors at the U.S. Capi­tol Tues­day. Many Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic sen­a­tors ex­pressed frus­tra­tion and con­cern about how Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump may have shared clas­si­fied in­tel­li­gence with the Rus­sia.

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