WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/CBS News) — The Washington Post reported Monday night that President Donald Trump revealed “highly classified” intelligence to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during a meeting at the White House last week.
As CBS2’s Dick Brennan reported, the report said Trump went off script in the meeting and began describing details related to the use of an ISIS terrorist threat related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft.
A former intelligence official told CBS News “something inappropriate was discussed by President Trump, and that “details were discussed that should not have been discussed.”
U.S. officials told the paper the disclosures may have endangered a key intelligence source involved with the campaign against ISIS.
The information shared by Trump with the Russians was not collected by U.S. intelligence. Rather, it was given to the U.S. by an ally in the fight against ISIS, and was provided with the understanding that it would not be shared with other countries without permission.
The intelligence was “code-word information,” the Post reported. That’s the term used for intelligence classified at the highest possible level. U.S. officials worry that the disclosure of the information will do serious harm to relations with the ally in question.
“If that partner learned we’d given this to Russia without their knowledge or asking first that is a blow to that relationship,” a U.S. official told the Post.
A source familiar with the workings of the Senate Intelligence Committee said the committee members — including its leaders — have not been briefed on the president’s alleged comments to the Russians, according to CBS News’ Nancy Cordes.
One official told the paper that Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.” But given the president’s wide latitude in declassifying materials, it’s unlikely that he broke any laws by sharing the information with the Russians.
National security advisor Gen. H.R. McMaster, a participant in the meeting, denied the story.
“The story that came out tonight as reported is false,” McMaster said.
McMaster said the president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats including threats to civil aviation.
“At no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed, and the president did not disclose any military operations that were already known,” he said.
“The president and the foreign minister reviewed common threats from terrorist organizations to include threats to aviation,” national security advisor Gen. H.R. McMaster, a participant in the meeting, told the paper. “At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly.”
However, the Post report doesn’t say that Trump discussed methods or sources with Lavrov and Kislyak. Instead, the paper says Trump discussed information provided by a source relating to a specific terrorist threat. In doing so, he disclosed elements of a plot being planned by ISIS, the danger posed by the plot, and the city in ISIS-held territory where the U.S. ally had detected the threat.
Based on that information, “Russia could identify our sources or techniques,” a senior U.S. official told the Post, although the response from Lavrov and Kislyak at the time was reportedly “muted.”
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a series of tweets that Trump must provide an explanation if the report is true.
“If the Washington Post report is true, it is very disturbing. Revealing classified information at this level is extremely dangerous. It puts at risk the lives of Americans and those who gather intelligence for our country,” Schumer said in the tweets. “The President owes the intelligence community, the American people, and Congress a full explanation.”
Trump is reported to have boasted that he had access to classified information during his meeting with the Russians.
“I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day,” the Post reported Mr. Trump as saying, citing a U.S. official.
The information was allegedly shared during a meeting where the U.S. press was not allowed in, while the Russian government press was inside.