Update. May 16, 2017:
President Donald Trump has reportedly revealed classified information to the Russian officials who visited the Oval Office on May 10.
The information was reportedly provided to Trump by a U.S. partner through a “highly sensitive” intelligence-sharing arrangement, reports the Washington Post.
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The Post says in most cases it’s illegal for any government official to “discuss such matters with an adversary.” However, as president, Trump has the authority to declassify government secrets, making it unlikely that these recent actions broke the law.
The event has prompted the White House to issue a statement denying that Trump discussed ‘sources, methods, or military operations,” in his meeting with Russian Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak,.
“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,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement.
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Several officials came out against these claims. National security advisor H.R. McMaster denied the Post’s reports in a press briefing.
“The story that came out as reported tonight is false. The president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known,” he said.
In an interview with CNN immediately following the briefing, one of the authors of the Washington Post story Greg Miller told CNN anchors that the White House is denouncing the reporting of him and his colleagues, the White House is avoiding the real discussion.
“The White House is playing word games,” said the original story’s authors on CNN.
Deputy national security advisor Dina Powell also denounced the report. “This story is false. The president only discussed the common threats that both countries faced,” she said
Since the White House has come out against the report, both Reuters and Buzzfeed have independently confirmed the claims. Furthermore, the top Democrat on House intelligence, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, has called the revelation “deeply disturbing,” and “problematic.”
“This disclosure could jeopardize sources of very sensitive intelligence and relationships we have with key partners,” Schiff says.
According to the Post, Trump discussed threats from terrorist organizations against the United States, including threats to aviation, including aspects of the threat that the United States only learned of through a key partner. While he did not reveal the method by which the intelligence was gathered, U.S. officials claim that Trump revealed the city in the Islamic State’s territory where the U.S. intelligence partner detected the threat.
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This partner had not given Trump permission to share this information with Lavrov and Kislyak and officials said that his decision to do so jeopardizes the administration’s relationship with an ally who has high-level access to the Islamic State.
The CIA declined to comment and the National Security Agency did not respond to the Post’s requests for comment.
“This is code-word information,” said a U.S. official familiar with the matter, referring to one of the highest classification levels as used by American spy agencies. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”
This event follows several controversial actions by President Trump, namely the firing of FBI Director James Comey last week. Trump admitted earlier that his decision to fire Comey stemmed from the bureau’s investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russia.
A recent Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released Monday reveals that a growing number of Republicans wish to see an “independent investigation” into connections between Russia and the president. The poll was conducted after the firing of James Comey between May 10 and 14. In the past, Trump has also emphasized his desire to facilitate a better relationship between the United States and Russia.
The U.S. Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin, said on Monday that Trump’s conduct in this matter was “dangerous” and “reckless.”
“This conduct by the president is not only dangerous, it’s reckless. It is reckless for him to disclose to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador, sensitive, top secret information,” Durbin told reporters outside the Senate.
In the midst of these accusations, a 2016 from Paul Ryan stating his view on the sharing of classified information has resurfaced. The tweet says that “individuals who are ‘extremely careless’ with classified information should be denied further access to such info.”
With files from Reuters.
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