The reporter who broke the story on President Donald Trump’s classified intelligence reveal told CNN Monday that the White House is “playing word games” with its statements of denial to “try to blunt the impact” of the story.
The Post’s Greg Miller wrote that Trump revealed highly classified intelligence that came from a key source on the Islamic State terror group.
That information was related to a “specific threat” from ISIS and the information Trump shared with the Russians included the city in the Islamic State-held territory from which the intelligence was gathered — potentially endangering the US ally who shared the information.
But statements of denial from the Trump administration did not address The Post’s claims:
- National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters that, during Trump’s meeting with the Russians last week, common threats were reviewed, but “at no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly.”
- Secretary of State Rex Tillerson released a statement saying “the nature of specific threats were discussed, but they did not discuss sources, methods, or military operations.”
- And Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell called The Post’s story “false” and said, “The president only discussed the common threats that both countries faced.”
Citing a senior Trump aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity, The Daily Beast reports that communications staff and senior White House officials were “hiding in offices,” as a line of reporters were camped in the hallways, waiting for an official statement on the matter.
Trump administration staffers were said to be in meetings late Monday amid the fallout, CNN reported.
“Do not ask me about how this looks, we all know how this looks,” the senior aide said to The Daily Beast.
This latest crisis for the White House comes after a string of scandals centered around Trump and Russia, the most recent being the firing of FBI Director James Comey last week. Comey, whose bureau was “accelerating” its investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia, was abruptly fired after Trump signed off on a recommendation made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
National security experts reacted with alarm on Monday night to reports that President Donald Trump disclosed classified information to Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador during a meeting in the Oval Office last week.
“This story is nauseating,” Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution, posted on Twitter along with a link to The Washington Post’s bombshell story. “You might have to work with [national security] people to understand how bad it is, but it’s horrible. Really really bad.”
The Post reported on Monday night that Trump’s disclosures to Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak “jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State,” and “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.”
Many have noted that Trump, as president, is technically allowed to disclose classified information to whoever he wants. But the fact that the information he shared was not a US secret, but that of an American ally, may complicate his authority to declassify information at will. Matthew Rosenberg of The New York Times told CNN on Monday that the intel came from a close “Middle Eastern ally.”
“This is appalling,” said Eliot Cohen, a professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies and former counsel to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. “If accidental, it would be a firing offense for anyone else. If deliberate, it would be treason.”
“It’s so mind-boggling, I don’t even know what to say,” Eric Edelman, a former undersecretary of defense during the George W. Bush administration, told The Wall Street Journal. “I’m completely gobsmacked. It’s jeopardizing a human source. It’s the one thing you’re trained to never do. If what Post is reporting is true, it’s a stunning indication of his unfitness for office.”
“This is the most serious charge ever made against a sitting president of the United States,” said Harvard professor and constitutional law scholar Alan Dershowitz.