Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador (Washington Post link): President 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.
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.
“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.”
Why the latest White House crisis is a really big deal (CNN link): Donald Trump's latest crisis -- over his reported disclosure of highly classified information to Russia -- is giving voice to a question whispered privately in Washington during weeks of political turmoil: Is the President up to the job?
"This isn't really about the power of the President. He has the power to do this," former CIA Director Michael Hayden said on "CNN Tonight" Monday. "This is more about the person of the President and the performance."
The new storm engulfing an already beleaguered White House is so potentially damaging because it stretches far beyond the simple personal standing and reputation of the President.
The rumpus, first reported by The Washington Post, has national security, intelligence and international implications that White House attempts to knock down the story on Monday night conspicuously failed to address. It's even possible that lives could be at risk, considering that the information Trump reportedly shared was related to an ISIS terror plot against civil aviation -- the most urgent terrorist threat to the United States.
When Donald Trump was elected, U.S. intelligence officials feared that allies would stop sharing critical intelligence information for fear that information might be passed on to Russia. European countries in particular rightfully worried their secrets would land in the hands of Vladimir Putin even as he meddled in their elections.
Wednesday, it appears those fears were realized.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the infamous Ambassador Sergey Kislyak must have giggled inside, maybe even smirked a little as Russia’s preferred President bragged to them about how “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day about the amazing intelligence.” Trump’s bravado allegedly revealed highly classified specifics about an Islamic State plot to bomb civilian aviation, one that has triggered months of incremental bans on laptops being carried into airplane cabins bound for the U.S.
He gave that information—which came from an ally as part of what the Washington Post describes as “an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government”—to an adversary, Russia. The same adversary under scrutiny for its widespread hacking of American leaders, including the Presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, the personal emails of former Secretary of State General Colin Powell and former NATO commander General Breedlove, hacking which may have tipped the election in favor of Trump.
By releasing classified intelligence, at best, Trump created a gaffe for which any American other than the commander-in-chief might be imprisoned. At worst, he revealed and put at risk the life of an essential intelligence source of a critical foreign ally.
Above all, Trump further eroded trust in America and amongst Americans at a time when democracy has come under the intense assault of Russian Active Measures to break up the European Union and the NATO military alliance.
Every day brings another bombshell. The roar from the firing of FBI Director James Comey had not yet died down when news came that President Trump had shared top-secret code-word intelligence concerning ISIS with the Russians, jeopardizing an intelligence sharing relationship with a close ally, potentially endangering friendly agents in the field and weakening U.S. counterterrorism efforts at a moment of peril.
On top of that — and that is hard to beat — we have a White House staff in remarkable turmoil.
When President Trump's spokespeople attempted to defend the Comey firing by attributing it to the memo written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Trump cut them off at their legs, saying to NBC that he had been planning to fire Comey all along, and referencing "the Russia thing" that Comey was investigating.
As the backdrop to all the disarray, we have Trump's historically dismal standing in the polls, with record high levels of disapproval.
Alone in the White House at night, absorbing an endless stream of bad news, surrounded by staffers whom he does not trust, Trump is desperately searching for ways to right his ship.
"He's frustrated, and angry at everyone," one of Trump's confidantes told the news organization Axios, which reports that Trump is planning a wholesale purge of his senior White House staff, ridding himself of Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer and Stephen Bannon. But of course firing the White House staff is not likely to fix a problem that stems from Trump himself.
According to BuzzFeed’s Adrian Carrasquillo, the officials walked into the Cabinet Room of the White House shortly after news broke that Donald Trump revealed classified information to the Russian ambassador and Russian foreign minister during a closed-door meeting last week.