The Washington Post reported on Monday that during President Trump’s bilateral meeting in the White House last week with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Kislyak, he disclosed classified U.S. intelligence information to them, according to current and former U.S. officials.
The Post said the information that President Trump shared with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador were conveyed through a confidential U.S. partner in Syria through a highly sensitive intelligence sharing arrangement with guarded details that weren’t even shared with U.S. allies and were tightly restricted in the U.S. government, according to the U.S. officials.
The information pertains to critical data about Islamic State in Syria that was acquired from the confidential U.S. partner who has previously voiced frustration with Washington’s inability to safeguard sensitive information related to Iraq and Syria, according to the U.S. officials.
U.S. officials told the Washington Post that the identification of the location of the U.S. partner in Syria could become an issue in the future since Russia could use that detail to more easily identify the U.S. ally or intelligence mechanism involved in the region and it could be used to provide intelligence on Russia’s presence in Syria which the Kremlin may want to target and disrupt.
During the meeting last week with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Kislyak, President Trump began divulging specific details of an Islamic State terrorist threat concerning the use of laptops on airplanes.
Although Russia and the United States have a shared interest in eradicating Islamic State from Syria, there is little else that the two countries share in common across the volatile country where a 6 year war has divided the country and the Syrian government stands accused of using chemical weapons on Syrian civilian populations.
Over the past 2 years, Moscow has doubled down on the Assad regime by increasing military support for the Syrian government while it maintains a naval base and airbase in Syria that hold strategic importance to Putin’s regional ambitions as he seeks to preserve alliances with Damascus and Tehran and aims to improve relations with Ankara.
U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster met with reporters on Monday and denied that President Trump had disclosed classified information last week to Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Kislyak from the White House.
“The story that came out tonight as reported is false” McMaster told reporters.
“At no time, at no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed. And the President did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known” McMaster added.
Two former officials knowledgeable of the situation told CNN on Monday that the main points of the Washington Post story are accurate.
President Trump shared classified information with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov.
And although he didn’t reveal the source of the information, U.S. intelligence officials informed CNN that there is concern that Russia will be able to find out the identity and source of the highly sensitive U.S. partner.
Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell told CBS Host Scott Pelley on Monday that President Trump doesn’t stick to the script.
“When presidents meet with foreign officials they are given talking points. They are told here’s what to say on an issue and here’s what not to say. And the President doesn’t seem to stick to the script” Morell said.
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