(RFE/RL) — Media are reporting that U.S. President Donald Trump disclosed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister during a meeting last week, potentially jeopardizing a source of intelligence about Islamic State.
The White House quickly denied the charges which were published by the Washington Post, Reuters, and other media late on May 15. But congressional Democrats and some Republicans condemned the reported disclosures as “troubling,” “dangerous,” and “reckless.”
Media, citing anonymous officials, said the information Trump relayed to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak during their May 10 meeting had been provided by a U.S. partner through a highly sensitive intelligence-sharing arrangement.
The partner had not given Washington permission to share the material with Moscow, and Trump’s decision to do so risks cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State militant group.
During his Oval Office meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak, Trump reportedly went off-script and began describing details about an IS threat related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft.
In his conversations with the Russian officials, Trump was reported to boast about his knowledge of the looming threats, telling them he was briefed on “great intel every day.”
While discussing classified matters with an adversary would be illegal for most people, the president has broad authority to declassify government secrets, making it unlikely that Trump’s disclosures broke the law, the Post said.
After the reports of Trump’s disclosures came out, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster issued statements denying anything improper.
“The president and the foreign minister reviewed common threats from terrorist organizations to include threats to aviation,” said McMaster, who participated in the meeting.
“At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly.”
“During President Trump’s meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov, a broad range of subjects were discussed among which were common efforts and threats regarding counter-terrorism. During that exchange the nature of specific threats were discussed, but they did not discuss sources, methods or military operations,” Tillerson said.
But U.S. Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that if the allegations are true, that would be a “slap in the face” to the U.S. intelligence community.
“Risking sources & methods is inexcusable, particularly with the Russians,” Warner said on Twitter.
The Senate’s number two Democrat, Dick Durbin, called the reported disclosures “dangerous” and “reckless.”
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, a Republican, called the reports “worrisome” and “troubling,” and told reporters that 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 creates a worrisome environment.”
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