The next day, Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office, where U.S. media were denied access, but the Russian Foreign Ministry photographers were allowed to take photos, despite the potential access to classifed information. By way of reminder, Kislyak is the figure with whom Michael Flynn, Jeff Sessions, and Jared Kushner had undisclosed meetings during the campaign.
Last night, Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe at the Washington Post reported a bombshell about that meeting: Trump Revealed Highly Classified Information to Russian Foreign Minister and Ambassador.
[Donald] Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump's disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.Since publication, multiple other news outlets have confirmed the WaPo's report, with a source telling BuzzFeed "that 'it's far worse than what has already been reported.' The official was referring to the extent of the classified intelligence information Trump disclosed to the Russian ambassador and foreign minister."
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, officials said.
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."
..."It is all kind of shocking," said a former senior U.S. official who is close to current administration officials. "Trump seems to be very reckless and doesn't grasp the gravity of the things he's dealing with, especially when it comes to intelligence and national security. And it's all clouded because of this problem he has with Russia."
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.
Trump went on to discuss aspects of the threat that the United States learned only through the espionage capabilities of a key partner. He did not reveal the specific intelligence-gathering method, but he described how the Islamic State was pursuing elements of a specific plot and how much harm such an attack could cause under varying circumstances. Most alarmingly, officials said, Trump revealed the city in the Islamic State's territory where the U.S. intelligence partner detected the threat.
National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster was sent out to refute the report with a carefully and mendaciously worded statement that misrepresented what the WaPo had reported, which was not that Trump had shared intelligence sources, intelligence methods, or military operations:
Watch McMaster's statement carefully: “at no time were sources or methods discussed.” WaPo report never said Trump revealed sources/methods. pic.twitter.com/SF3rWDqKFi— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) May 15, 2017
There's nothing that the president takes more seriously than the security of the American people. The story that came out tonight, as reported, is false. The president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation. 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. Two other senior officials were present, including the Secretary of State, remember the meeting the same way and have said so. Their on-the-record account should outweigh those of anonymous sources. I was in the room; it didn't happen. Thanks, everybody. [walks away without taking any questions]By mischaracterizing what had been reported, McMaster was staking his own credibility on refuting something that no one had even accused Trump of doing. And naturally, the foolishness of letting his reputation rely on Trump's integrity immediately became evident (though it should have been already), as Trump's morning tweetshitz included an admission that he had indeed disclosed information to the Russians and had every right to do so.
As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017
...to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017
Which, of course, led to another round of denials from the White House:
WH/NSC spokesman Mike Anton emphatically denies that Pres Trump's tweets today confirm disclosure of classified material to Russia.— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) May 16, 2017
No reasonable person believes such a patently absurd bit of spin, but, at this point, the White House is just issuing this dreck for the benefit of their base. It's grist for the "fake media" mill: They need to provide something to the people they've primed to be distrustful of all political media and all reports of Trump's various wrongdoings.
Meanwhile, Trump continues his pattern of brazenly admitting what his staff tries to conceal, because he believes the office of the presidency entitles him to behave however he wants. And it's probably a good time to recall that Trump once bragged: "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose any voters." That statement is the clearest evidence of his state of mind as any we will ever have.
Because of the fundamental tension created by Trump's ego and his staff's insistence on trying to spin his behavior, we now exist in a space in which neither the president nor any member of his administration can be trusted. Which is a problem in any situation, but particular one in which the president is spilling secrets of our allies to hostile foreign governments.
Trump's recklessness will isolate us from the global intelligence community, plunging our intelligence community into darkness.— Melissa McEwan (@Shakestweetz) May 16, 2017
Trump must be removed from office, for the safety of this nation. Surely even the "give him a chance" brigade sees that now.— Melissa McEwan (@Shakestweetz) May 16, 2017
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has called for Congress to be given a full briefing "on the extent of the damage [Donald] Trump has done." Indeed. But her Republican colleagues remain intractably averse to showing even the merest hint of loyalty to this nation.
The seams in their blanket defense may be starting to fray. Senator Bob Corker, the partiest of party men, said last night: "The White House has got to do something soon to bring itself under control and in order. It's got to happen." And added: "Obviously they're in a downward spiral right now and they've got to figure out a way to come to grips with all that's happening."
That is still a woefully insufficient statement, given what's happening. But it's a pointed comment on the grievous nature of Trump's disclosure to our adversaries that it's become nearly indefensible even to the members of his party who have, thus far, gone to unfathomable lengths to defend him.