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Trump admits revealing classified information to Russians

The revelation could damage a relationship with a key spy partner.
President Trump Oval Office Russian Photographer
Photo: Twitter / BraddJaffy

UPDATE 8:30am: Trump acknowledged and defended his release of classified information to Russians on Twitter this morning. 

He wrote, "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."

That admission seems to fly in the face of his staff's previous denials of the leak.

UPDATE 7:08pm: In a news conference, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said, “The story that came out tonight as reported is false. The president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries including threats to civil aviation. At no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed.”

6:33pm: President Trump revealed highly classified information during an Oval Office visit by the Russian foreign minister and ambassador last week, jeopardizing a "critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State," the Washington Post reported Monday afternoon.

That information came from another country which has a highly sensitive intelligence-sharing arrangement with the United States — one known to very few within the U.S. government, which is also withheld from allies.

“This is code-word information,” a U.S. official familiar with the matter told the Post, referring to one of the highest levels of secret information held by U.S. spies. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies,” the official said.

The information had do with the ability to use laptop computers to make explosive devices, a tactic being explored by the Islamic State. The Post reported that Trump did not have permission from the intelligence partner to share the information with Russia, and his actions risk endangering the relationship with the partner, which has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State.

In the meeting, Trump "seemed to be boasting about his inside knowledge of the looming threat," the Post reported: “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day,” said Trump, according to an official with knowledge of the conversation.

Trump discussed details of the threat that the United States only learned through the espionage partner: how the Islamic State was pursuing a specific plot, how much harm that kind of attack could cause and the specific city in the Islamic State’s territory where the U.S. intelligence partner detected the threat.

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster downplayed the severity of the president's revelations. “The president and the foreign minister reviewed common threats from terrorist organizations to include threats to aviation,” said McMaster, who was in the meeting. “At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed, and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly.”

But a U.S. official that had been briefed on the matter, in confirming the Post report to BuzzFeed News, said, "It’s far worse than what has already been reported.”

The president has the right to declassify any information he wants, so the action was not illegal.

But “it is all kind of shocking,” said a former senior U.S. official close to current administration officials in the Post story. “Trump seems to be very reckless, and doesn’t grasp the gravity of the things he’s dealing with, especially when it comes to intelligence and national security. And it’s all clouded because of this problem he has with Russia.”

 
 
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