Did Trump Reveal Intelligence Secrets To Russians in Oval Office?


Donald Trump (centre) with Russian diplomat Sergey Lavrov (left) (Photo: AP)
Donald Trump (centre) with Russian diplomat Sergey Lavrov (left) (Photo: AP)

Did Trump Reveal Intelligence Secrets To Russians in Oval Office?

President Donald Trump disclosed highly classified information to Russia's foreign minister about a planned ISIS operation, two US officials said on Monday, plunging the White House into another controversy just months into Trump's short tenure in office.

The intelligence, shared at a meeting last week with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, was supplied by a US ally in the fight against the militant group, both officials with knowledge of the situation said.

The White House declared the allegations, first reported by the Washington Post, incorrect.

White House Denies Claims

"The story that came out tonight as reported is false," HR McMaster, Trump's national security adviser, told reporters at the White House, adding that the leaders reviewed a range of common threats including to civil aviation.

"At no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed. The president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known... I was in the room. It didn't happen," he said.

The White House also released a statement from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who said the Oval Office meeting focused on counterterrorism, and from Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell, who called the Washington Post story false.

Still, the news triggered concern in Congress.

NSA Advisor HR McMaster (left) with US President Donald Trump (right) (Photo: AP)
NSA Advisor HR McMaster (left) with US President Donald Trump (right) (Photo: AP)
The Senate’s No 2 Democrat, Dick Durbin, called Trump’s conduct “dangerous” and “reckless”. Bob Corker, the Republican head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the allegations “very, very troubling” if true.

Also Read: Trump Appoints ‘Authority Questioning’ General HR McMaster as NSA

Secret Compartment

The latest controversy came as Trump's administration reels from the fallout over his abrupt dismissal of former FBI Director James Comey and amid congressional calls for an independent investigation into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US election.

Also read: Threatening of ‘Tapes,’ Trump Tells Comey Not to Talk to Media

One of the officials said the intelligence discussed by Trump in his meeting with Lavrov was classified "Top Secret" and held in a secure “compartment” to which only a handful of intelligence officials have access.

After Trump disclosed the information, which one of the officials described as spontaneous, officials immediately called the CIA and the National Security Agency, both of which have agreements with a number of allied intelligence services around the world, and informed them what had happened.

While the president has the authority to disclose even the most highly classified information at will, in this case he did so without consulting the ally that provided it, which threatens to jeopardise a long-standing intelligence-sharing agreement, the US officials said.

Also Read: Donald Trump Sours on Russia, Warms to China and NATO

Since taking office in January, Trump has careened from controversy to controversy, complaining on the first day about news coverage of his inauguration crowds; charging his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, with wiretapping; and just last week firing the FBI director who was overseeing an investigation into potential ties between Trump's presidential campaign and the Russian government.

Trump, a Republican who has called allegations of links between his campaign team and Russia a "total scam," had sharply criticised his 2016 election rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton, for her handling of classified information as secretary of state, when she used a private email server.

The FBI concluded that no criminal charges against Clinton were warranted, but Comey said she and her colleagues had been "careless" with classified information.

No Filter

In his conversations with the Russian officials, Trump appeared to be boasting about his knowledge of the looming threats, telling them he was briefed on “great intel every day,” an official with knowledge of the exchange said, according to the Post.

Some US officials have told Reuters they have been concerned about disclosing highly classified intelligence to Trump.

One official, who requested anonymity to discuss dealing with the president, said last month: “He has no filter; it’s in one ear and out the mouth.”

Also Read: Warned White House That Flynn Was Russia Blackmail Risk: Yates

One of the officials with knowledge of Trump’s meeting with the Russian called the timing of the disclosure “particularly unfortunate,” as the President prepares for a White House meeting on Tuesday with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, an ally in the fight against ISIS.

(Published in an arrangement with Reuters)

(The Quint is now on WhatsApp. To receive handpicked stories on topics you care about, subscribe to our WhatsApp services. Just go to TheQuint.com/WhatsApp and hit the Subscribe button.)

Follow our World section for more stories.

    Also Watch