A disclosure by The Washington Post on Monday that President Trump had shared highly classified intelligence information with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador last week sent a new wave of improbability and consternation across the nation.
That shockwave gained intensity Tuesday when it was reported that Israel provided the information that Trump boasted about to the Russians. A bad situation, including diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Israel, its chief ally and intelligence source in the Middle East, just got worse.
According to the report, Israeli officials could not confirm this information about Trump’s conversation from a former American official familiar with the incident. In a statement, Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., said, “Israel has full confidence in our intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States and looks forward to deepening that relationship in the years ahead under President Trump.”
It will be curious to see how this development plays in Israel and other countries during Trump’s first trip abroad.
Although the extent of the breach is yet undetermined, it appears Trump revealed “code-word information” related to threats from ISIS provided by a U.S. ally in the region. At the moment it is not clear who the source is but the Russians have enough information to possibly pinpoint it.
The Washington Post apparently obtained the story from attendees at the meeting with the Russians, although Trump aides, including National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster said the president did not reveal any information that was not already publicly known.
Even so, Trump tweeted in the aftermath of the revelation that he, as president, had every right to declassify information. “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,” Trump said in two tweets Tuesday morning. “Humanitarian reasons. Plus, I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.”
In the troubled Middle East, including Syria, the U.S. and Russia are not always on the same page. Russia seems more intent in protecting Assad’s regime than in stifling the impact of ISIS or ISIL. On the other hand, the U.S. supplies support to the rebels fighting against ISIS and to the opponents of the Syrian government.
Trump’s meeting with Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, came in the wake of his firing FBI Director James Comey, giving the turn of events an even deeper intrigue, particularly as it relates to the ongoing investigation of the Russians’ possible involvement in the last presidential election.
Moreover, there was a tweet from Trump that bordered on threatening Comey as a potential witness to the Russian investigation as well as the extent to which his meeting with Comey was taped in the White House.
Trump’s meeting and divulging classified information has historical irony when you consider how vehement he was about Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and his charge that she was a “crook” who needed to be jailed.
This recent action has even disturbed members of the GOP. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), appearing Tuesday on MSNBC said, “It’s not helpful that this was with the Russians, right? I mean this is just weird. We and the Russians do not have aligned interests.”
Sasse went on to say that the Russians “want to exacerbate our internal distrust of each other, they want to fracture NATO.”
Bronx Assemblyman and a vice chair of the DNC, Michael Blake, said, “If this is true, the revealing of classified information by President Trump to Russians is appalling and unconscionable on many levels. The release of information endangers the lives of people, further erodes trust and weakens our intelligence capabilities. Furthermore, it only helps corroborate the suspicion that he is in collusion with the Russian government.”
He cited Trump’s action as “one of the greatest betrayals by a president” and he joined the outcry from a number of his colleagues in the demand for a special prosecutor to investigate the “Trump ties to Russia because enough is enough.”