US Politics

Trump revealed classified info in ‘boast’ to Russia's foreign minister: reports

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Current and former US officials told the Washington Post and the New York Times that President Trump 'boasted' about highly classified information to Russian officials.

US President Donald Trump disclosed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister during their meeting last week, potentially jeopardising a source of intelligence about Islamic State, The Washington Post reported on Monday.

Citing current and former US officials, the newspaper said the information Trump relayed to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak had been provided by a US partner through a highly sensitive intelligence-sharing arrangement.

The partner had not given Washington permission to share the material with Moscow, and Trump's decision to do so risks cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State militant group, the Post said, citing the unnamed officials.

During his Oval Office meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak, Trump went off-script and began describing details about an Islamic State threat related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft, the officials told the Post.

Senior Republicans and Democrats have described the reports as "deeply concerning", but the White House has branded the news as "false".

"The president only discussed the common threats that both countries faced," Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell told reporters. 

National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster, says the story is "false"

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US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the president discussed a "broad range of subjects" including terrorism, but said he did not specifically discuss "sources, methods or military operations" in the meeting.

Despite denials, the New York Times has corroborated the report, writing that President Trump “boasted” about the intelligence in the meeting, citing both a former and a current government official.

While discussing classified matters with an adversary would be illegal for most people, the president has broad authority to declassify government secrets, making it unlikely that Trump's disclosures broke the law, the Post said.

Trump's meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak at the White House came a day after he fired FBI Director James Comey, who was leading the agency's investigation into possible links between Trump's presidential campaign and Moscow.

Republican Senator John McCain, Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, tweeted that the reports are "deeply disturbing" if true. 

Senator Bob Corker, Republican Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, criticised the president in comments reported by Politico.

"To compromise a source is something that you just don't do," he told reporters. "That's why we keep the information that we get from intelligence sources so close, is to prevent that from happening."

US Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said allegations that president Trump released classified information to Russia would be a "slap in the face" to the intelligence community.

Other Democratic Senators have slammed the president's reported actions as "reckless and dangerous" and called for congressional investigations.

Asked about the disclosures, Trump's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, who participated in the meeting, said no intelligence sources or methods were discussed that were not already known publicly, the Post reported. Asked by Reuters about the Post story, McMaster declined comment.

US officials have told Reuters that US agencies are in the process of drawing up plans to expand a ban on passengers carrying laptop computers onto US-bound flights from several countries on conflict zones due to new intelligence about how militant groups are refining techniques for installing bombs in laptops.

So serious are assessments of the increased threat that Washington is considering banning passengers from several European countries, including Britain, from carrying laptops in a cabin on US-bound flights. The United States has consulted about the intelligence with allied governments and airlines.

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