The beginning of the end. That’s what many are saying about the Trump presidency, following The Washington Post’s explosive article revealing how President Trump disclosed highly classified intelligence during his sit-down meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at the White House last week—only one day after he fired FBI Director James Comey over his investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Citing unnamed U.S. officials, the Post reports Trump began bragging to the two Russian officials about his intelligence briefings, saying, “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day.” He went on to disclose highly classified information provided by a third party about the possible threat of ISIS launching an attack on an airplane using a computer bomb. This is The Washington Post’s Greg Miller, one of the co-authors of the report.
Greg Miller: “At some point, Trump starts talking about the great intelligence he gets. He’s telling his visitors, 'I get the best briefings. I get the best intelligence,' and proceeds to talk about this threat that is underway that has been actually publicly talked about for some time. But he goes into details about the specifics of this plot and how it’s coming together and what the Islamic State is doing to try to make this—to try to pull this off. And the problem is that the United States knows much of this information because of intelligence that came from a partner, another country.”
Senior White House officials were apparently so alarmed by Trump’s disclosures that they called the CIA and National Security Agency afterward to warn them of what had happened. Officials told the Post they were concerned Trump’s disclosure would jeopardize a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State. There has been some speculation that the country of Jordan was the source of the classified intelligence. President Trump is reportedly scheduled to speak by phone this morning with Jordan’s King Abdullah II. At an emergency news conference Monday, National Security Adviser General H.R. McMaster said The Washington Post’s story was false.
H.R. McMaster: “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—at no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed. And the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known.”
But earlier this morning President Trump made his first comment on the story, in which he appears to contradict General McMaster and instead confirms that he did disclose information to Russia. He wrote on Twitter, “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.” We’ll have more on Trump’s leaks to Russia after headlines with Larry Diamond of the Hoover Institution and Stanford University and with Scott Horton, lecturer at Columbia Law School and a contributing editor at Harper’s magazine.