On May 15, the Washington Post reported that President Donald Trump leaked highly classified intelligence to the Russian ambassador and foreign minister. While the Trump administration claims that it acted lawfully, a controversy has manifested all the same.
President Trump had a closed-door meeting with the foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and ambassador Sergey Kislyak of Russia on May 10th. During this meeting, Trump relayed information that had been provided by an US partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement. This information was considered to be so sensitive that it had not been provided to allies and was of the highest level of classification for classified information.
The partner, believed to be Israel, who provided the information had not given permission to the United States to share the intelligence with Russia. By doing so, it is possible that the exchange endangered future cooperation with an ally that has access to Islamic State.
Even though such a disclosure would normally be considered illegal, Trump has the authority to declassify government secrets. For this reason, the disclosure did not break any laws. National Security Adviser, HR McMaster stated that the report of the intelligence being leaked was false and that any leaks would be appropriate. Russia has stated that there was no classified information leaked to them and they have offered to release a transcript of the meeting.
The details of this exchange of information comes from anonymous officials that are familiar with what was discussed. Certain details of the exchange were not reported as it is believed that to do so would jeopardize important intelligence gathering capabilities. The exchange can also give Russia information on how the United States gathers intelligence.
According to an anonymous official with knowledge of the exchange, Trump discussed threats to the United States that was learned through the espionage capabilities of a key partner. He did not discuss the method by which the information was obtained but he did reveal the city in which the threat was detected. It is believed that there was enough information provided that Russia can figure out the source and methods used to gather the information.
It is believed that the intelligence was a finding on advances in bomb making developed by Islamic State. The claim is that Islamic State can implant and mask an explosive in the batter of a laptop computer which can be then be smuggled onto a commercial airliner.
Update 5/18/2017: Added Russia’s statement of there not being any information exchanged to the article.
References and Further Reading
- Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador
- Donald Trump’s leak of classified information involved bombs and new batteries
- Sources: Trump shared classified info with Russians
- Putin offers transcript of Trump meeting with Lavrov