President Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian officials during a White House meeting last week, the Washington Post reports.
The information, which was provided by a U.S. partner, was apparently so sensitive, some details have been withheld from allies and restricted even within the U.S. government.
The post quotes former and current U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures “jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.”
Last week’s meeting, which included Trump, Russia’s ambassador Sergei Kislyak and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, was closed to the media except for a Russian photographer. Photos from the meeting sparked a media firestorm after they were published by Russian state media.
The Post reports that Trump’s disclosure could have severe consequences because the partner who passed on the intel did not give the U.S. permission to share the material with Russia. Officials quoted in the story said Trump’s decision to reveal it to the Russians “endangers” cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State.
“This is code-word information,” a U.S. official familiar with the matter told the Post, referring to one of the highest classification levels used by American intelligence agencies. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”
The story went on to say that senior White House officials went into damage control right, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency as soon as the meeting was over.
For almost anyone in government, discussing such matters with an adversary would be illegal. As president, Trump has broad authority to declassify government secrets, making it unlikely that his disclosures broke the law.
The White House was in full detail mode Monday as National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster dismissed the reports, calling them “false.”
“The story that came out tonight as reported is false,” McMaster told reporters in a brief statement from the White House. “I was in the room, it didn’t happen.”
“At no time, at no time, were intelligence sources or methods discussed,” McMaster went on to say. “And the president didn’t disclose any military operations that were not already known.”
The Post never claimed the president disclosed specific intelligence-gathering method. But an official told the paper that Trump “revealed the city in the Islamic State’s territory where the U.S. intelligence partner detected the threat.”
The disclosure of the location was particularly “problematic,” officials said, because Russia could use that detail to help identify the ally who provided the info as well as intelligence capability involved.
The news comes as the president faces a counter-intelligence probe into his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia before and after the election. Last week, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who was leading the investigation. In an interview with Lester Holt on Thursday, Trump said that Comey’s firing was driven by “this Russia thing,” an admission that was criticized as an attempt to obstruct justice.
BuzzFeed also reports that a US officials was briefed on the matter last week confirmed the veracity of the Post story adding that,”It’s far worse than what has already been reported.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee was also briefed on Trump’s disclosures, according to BuzzFeed.