Lawmakers denounced reports that President Trump disclosed “highly classified information” to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador during a meeting at the White House last week as “inexcusable” and “deeply disturbing.”
The Washington Post, citing current and former U.S. officials, reported that Trump provided Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak classified intelligence that was so sensitive it had been withheld from allies – and under close hold within the U.S. government as well.
“To compromise a source is something that you just don’t do,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said. “That’s why we keep the information that we get from intelligence sources so close…to prevent that from happening.”
Sen. Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee said that if the news was true, it was “a slap in the face to the intel community.”
“Risking sources & methods is inexcusable, particularly with the Russians,” tweeted Warner, whose panel is separately investigating a hacking campaign by the Russians to influence the 2016 election.
Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., called the news “deeply disturbing.”
During the meeting, Trump described details of an Islamic State threat related to using laptop computers on aircraft, the Post reported. Additionally, he revealed the city in the Islamic State’s territory where the U.S. partner detected the threat – which could damage a critical source of intelligence on the terror group. According to the Post, the president appeared to boast of his knowledge of a looming threat.
“I get great intel,” Trump said. “I have people brief me on great intel every day.”
Trump and the United States did not have permission to share the information from the partner who provided the details, the Post reported. According to an official who spoke to the Post, the president “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we share with our own allies.”
According to the Post, senior White House officials called the CIA and National Security Agency after the meeting to try to “contain the damage.”
The Trump administration is already pushing back on the story. “During President Trump’s meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov a broad range of subjects were discussed, among which were common efforts and threats regarding counterterrorism,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said. “During that exchanged, the nature of specific threats were discussed, but they did not discuss sources, methods or military operations.”
Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., along with a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., both resurfaced comments from House Speaker Paul Ryan last year lamenting the danger of individuals who are “extremely careless” with classified information.
Ryan had sent letters to then-FBI director James Comey and then-national intelligence director James Clapper after the FBI closed its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of State. He requested that Comey release all unclassified findings in the Clinton investigation and that Clapper refrain from classified briefings with Clinton during the campaign, for fear information could be exposed.