The Washington Post broke a story alleging U.S. President Donald Trump had leaked extremely classified information to two Russian officials during a meeting in the oval office last week.
President Trump went off script and revealed information regarding a possible terror threat from the Islamic State during a meeting meant to discuss counter-terrorism with Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, and Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak. The meeting was held a day after former FBI Director Comey – who was involved in investigating U.S.-Russia ties – was fired.
There are a lot of implications that come with an action as rash and ill-advised as this, so here are some key points to help you digest the magnitude of the situation.
Leaking this information puts a U.S. intelligence source at extreme risk
The information in question was provided by a U.S. partner who had access to inner workings of the Islamic State. Revealing the information without permission and without serious consideration of what to do with it can put that U.S. partner at risk of being revealed to the public and subsequently take away the access they have now.
So if what Mr. Trump told Russian officials gets leaked in a broader sense, then it is possible for U.S. adversaries to pin point who the intelligence partner is based on the specifics of the leaked information. This could keep the partner from continuing their work or even put them at risk of being physically harmed.
Not only has the president’s rash action put Americans’ and American ally’s trust at stake, it’s also put an individual’s livelihood at stake.
In addition to this, the leaked information could be a potential warning to ISIS and negatively affect the fight against them – which is something President Trump said he would finish before his first 100 days.
Trump shared more with Russia than with U.S. allies
A big portion of Mr. Trump’s platform has been to reduce tensions and find common ground with Russia. In this sense, the leak is a good thing for strengthening ties between the two countries. But it looks really bad to every other U.S. ally because now Russia knows more than them.
The political climate surrounding Trump’s presidency has already been wrought with tensions due to certain hacking allegations, trade deal renegotiations and some nations just not liking the idea of working with a man such as him. Now, President Trump has managed to prove his favour of Russia by giving them a gift he wouldn’t give anyone else so flippantly.
Top administration officials push back on the allegations
The national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, says the topics discussed during the meeting were already known publicly, effectively denying any classified information was revealed.
The secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, says nothing about specific methods, operations or sources were discussed – only specific threats regarding counter-terrorism. The issue here is a specific threat regarding counter-terrorism could be the exact classified information Mr. Trump revealed.
This kind of comment from a U.S. official begs the concept of such a report being speculation, in the most sparing use of the term. There are no ways for any citizen or any journalist to truly know what happened or what was spoken of during the Oval Office meeting because only Russian reporters were allowed to attend. All we really have is the word of those who were in the room at the time, which varies from person to person.
But Trump’s tweets might confirm the worst
Despite what McMaster says, the president’s lack of finesse continues to hurt him.
Just less than twelve hours after the Washington Post report President Trump ran to the twitterverse so he could share his two cents on the situation. Two tweets in which he said he “wanted to share with Russia” which he has “the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety.”
These tweets can be narrowed down to three scenarios. He was disclosing public information and it didn’t matter if the Russians knew; he knew it was classified and didn’t care because he’s Mister President with all the power; or he didn’t know it was classified and just thought it would be fun to share.
The first scenario would give McMaster’s comments validity, but the other two show extreme incompetency and disregard for political standards. The problem with the first scenario is if it was public information we would know what everyone is talking about. But since the topics discussed are still private and undisclosed the other two scenarios are more likely.
Congress may participate in full briefing of possible damage
House Democratic Leader, Nancy Pelosi, is suggesting congress take a full brief of what consequences may come from the president’s actions.
Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, says the situation is “disturbing.”
A Republican senator, Bob Corker, has even gone as far to say this confirms the White House’s downward spiral. He suggests this is a call for the administration to get itself in order and under control.
Despite where you fall on the political spectrum, this is a startling outcome from the current administration. It sets an odd precedent for how leaders will handle sensitive intelligence.