Trump has defended the sharing of information — regarding aviation security and ISIS — with Russian officials at the White House on May 10, saying he had the “absolute right” to do so.
On Tuesday, Trump’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster downplayed the sensitivity of the information that was shared, saying it was “wholly appropriate” considering the conversation and joint efforts to combat global terrorism.
The message that Trump was simply giving Russia a heads-up doesn’t cut it, said Greg Anderson, associate professor of political science at the University of Alberta.
“Conceivably, he’s compromised some pretty serious national intelligence sources,” Anderson said.
“In a worst-case scenario, it could contribute to getting somebody killed.”
Should the intelligence communities have people on the ground — say they’ve penetrated the ISIS command structure or Kim Jong Un’s inner circle — “Trump may have just burned them,” Anderson said.
“The mere disclosure of information can reveal an awful lot about the way in which you are gathering it and who you got it from,” Anderson explained. “And that can result in a lot of people being arrested and potentially killed.”
The information shared with Russia was reportedly provided to Trump by a U.S. partner through a “highly sensitive” intelligence-sharing arrangement, reports the Washington Post. Sharing the information with Russia allegedly jeopardized a critical intelligence source.
McMaster also suggested Trump didn’t know the source — or the sensitivity — of the information he shared, adding that the information was available through “open-source reporting.”
Implying that Trump isn’t well-informed doesn’t do anyone any favours, Anderson warns.
“McMaster suggesting he wasn’t up on the latest information — that’s an embarrassing admission as well,” Anderson said.
This situation also shakes the confidence of intelligence allies; one senior European intelligence official told the Associated Press that Trump’s loose lips with Russia could prompt the unnamed country to stop sharing information with the U.S.
“Who’s Trump going to throw under the bus next?” Anderson said. “That’s really the big story in all of this.”
While the Trump administration works to downplay the situation, fatigue over yet another Trump controversy appears to be a growing factor.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the intelligence uproar a distraction from GOP priorities such as tax reform and replacing the health care law.
“I think we could do with a little less drama from the White House on a lot of things so that we can focus on our agenda,” he told Bloomberg Business.
Maryland Democrat Steny Hoyer noted “an erosion of confidence among the American people.”
— With files from the Associated Press
© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.