What we know about Trump’s ‘disclosure’ of intelligence to Russia

What exactly did Trump speak about with Russian officials, and why is it problematic?

According to reports, Donald Trump revealed highly classified information during a meeting with Russian officials. Photograph: Getty Images

According to reports, Donald Trump revealed highly classified information during a meeting with Russian officials. Photograph: Getty Images

 

The White House has moved to quell another controversy involving US president Donald Trump and links with Russia following a news report outlining the disclosure of sensitive information to Russian officials during a meeting at the Oval Office. Here is what we know so far.

What is alleged to have happened?

US president Donald Trump met Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak in the Oval Office last Wednesday. According to a report in the Washington Post, citing current and former US officials, Mr Trump revealed classified information during the meeting. Following the disclosure, officials called the CIA and National Security Agency to tell them what had happened.

What is he supposed to have revealed?

The exact information he revealed has not been reported, but it allegedly had to do with an Islamic State plot and the proposed ban on laptops on flights between the US and Europe. According to the report, at one point during the meeting the US president began describing specific details of an Islamic State operation.

The information he gave the Russians had been provided as part of an intelligence sharing arrangement by a US partner. Officials said Mr Trump went as far as to identify the Islamic State-controlled city in which the source detected the threat.

Is Trump at liberty to reveal this information?

As US president, Mr Trump has the ability to disclose highly classified information at his will.

Then why is this problematic?

Officials said Mr Trump’s alleged revelation could jeopardise the source of information on Islamic State. The exposure of such a vital intelligence source could hinder the ability of the United States and its allies to detect future threats, according to the officials.

In this case, Mr Trump allegedly revealed this information without the clearance of the partner that gave it to the US. According to the article in the Washington Post, one official said Mr Trump had “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies”.

How has the Trump administration reacted?

In a statement following the report, the White House moved to denounce the claims. In a press briefing, Mr Trump’s national security adviser, HR McMaster, said: “The story that came out tonight as reported is false.”

McMaster said that in the meeting, the men reviewed a range of common threats including to civil aviation.

“At no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed. The president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known . . . I was in the room. It didn’t happen,” he said.

The White House also released a statement from secretary of state Rex Tillerson, who said the Oval Office meeting focused on counterterrorism, and from deputy national security adviser Dina Powell, who also called the Washington Post story false.

Additional reporting: Reuters

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