Update: President Trump took to Twitter to defend sharing classified information with Russian officials during a meeting last week.
In two tweets, he said, "As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism."
The tweets directly contradict what top White House officials such as Trump’s national security adviser, H. R. McMaster, said on Monday night. McMaster called the story "false" and said the president had not discussed "intelligence sources or methods" with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during their meeting last Tuesday.
This story was originally published on May 15, 2017.
President Donald Trump boastfully shared highly classified information with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a meeting at the White House last week, highlighting a recurring Trump personality trait that may be putting national security at risk.
In a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, Trump revealed a plot by the Islamic State, The Washington Post reported, citing current and former US officials. The “sensitive” intel had been obtained by a partner of the United States that hadn’t approved of the information being shared with Russia, jeopardising the US’s relationship with the ally.
The information was so sensitive that “details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the US government,” the newspaper reported.
Trump’s leak appears to confirm the serious fears of some in the intelligence community. Officials told The Wall Street Journal in February they were withholding some of the most sensitive details from Trump due to concerns “it could be leaked or compromised.” Since his days as a real estate titan, Trump has been known as a big talker who trades in often dubious information.
In this latest case, the Post reports that “Trump went off script and began describing details of an Islamic State terrorist threat related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft.” Trump boasted: “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day.”
Trump disclosed the city in the Islamic State’s territory where the US’s ally found a threat, which the Post reported was the most alarming aspect of his disclosure.
Trump is legally allowed to declassify government information, the Post reported. However, this act would be illegal for nearly every other government employee. The president did not disclose the specific sources or methods for obtaining the information.
H.R. McMaster, Trump's second national security adviser, said in a statement to reporters outside the White House: “The story that came out tonight as reported is false. He added that “at no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed,” which the Post explicitly stated was not the case.
The news comes a week after the president fired FBI Director James Comey and later admitted in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt that an active FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election was on his mind when he fired the man leading that probe.
His own aides had been telling a different story about the firing, claiming Comey was released on the basis of a recommendation from the deputy attorney general and that the rationale involved mishandling of an investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails.
Some noted a relevant 2016 tweet from House Speaker Paul Ryan:
Trump has built his career, reputation, and much of his wealth by spilling tea in ways that make him the centre of attention.
His shameless oversharing over the years has ranged from the highly personal -- he once told a New York City tabloid he was getting divorced before he told his wife -- to business-boosting boasts about his next giant real estate deal, to political canards like his birther crusade against former President Obama and his later claims that Obama had wiretapped his transition office.
“We didn’t see it at the time,” former gossip writer Susan Mulcahy wrote in Politico, “but item by inky item we were turning him into a New York icon.”
Here are some reactions to the news on social: