President Donald Trump revealed highly classified information about intelligence gathered on ISIS in a meeting last week with the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador, The Washington Post reported on Monday.
The White House pushed back against the story. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said that “the president and the foreign minister reviewed common threats from terrorist organizations to include threats to aviation. At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed and no military operations were disclosed that were not already publicly known.” He said that he was in the room for the meeting.
But the Post, quoting former and current U.S. officials, reported that “the information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government.” Trump had been talking about the threat that led to a proposed ban on laptops on many flights headed to U.S. airports.
Other news outlets, including The New York Times and BuzzFeed, confirmed the Post report.
Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office on Wednesday, the day after Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey triggered a furor. The FBI is investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, accused of having a role in hacking incidents in an effort to influence the 2016 elections.
The Post would not report exact details of the information that was relayed, citing the need to protect intelligence capabilities, but it had to do with a specific plot being pursued by ISIS.
The story immediately generated reactions across social media, comparing it to Trump’s criticism of his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, who was investigated for her handling of classified information while secretary of state. Comey criticized her use of a private email server, but no charges were brought against her.
“We need to be clear, we do not know if these allegations are true or false, but if — IF — these allegations are true, President Trump may have just disclosed top secret information to the Russians and possibly jeopardized an intelligence source in the process,” Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement.
“Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives need a briefing from the national security adviser and the directors of our nation’s intelligence agencies to get to the bottom of these allegations, and if there are audio recordings of this meeting, Congress needs to obtain them immediately,” they added.
After McMaster’s statement, which he delivered without taking questions, a number of reporters pointed out that he denied something that was not asserted in the Post’s story. Instead of reporting that Trump revealed the source of information, the Post reported that Trump “described how the Islamic State was pursuing elements of a specific plot and how much harm such an attack could cause under varying circumstances.” The Post also reported that Trump “revealed the city in the Islamic State’s territory where the U.S. intelligence partner detected the threat.”