Thursday afternoon, the Washington Post reported that in his recent meeting with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador, Donald Trump revealed highly classified information to the pair:
President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.
The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.
The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said Trump’s decision to do so endangers cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. After Trump’s meeting, senior White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency.
None of this, of course, is illegal. The president has broad latitude to de-classify things, even to foreign adversaries. But, if this story is correct, Trump revealed the intelligence essentially to brag about it:
In his meeting with Lavrov, Trump seemed to be boasting about his inside knowledge of the looming threat. “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day,” the president said, according to an official with knowledge of the exchange.
Trump went on to discuss aspects of the threat that the United States learned only through the espionage capabilities of a key partner. He did not reveal the specific intelligence-gathering method, but he described how the Islamic State was pursuing elements of a specific plot and how much harm such an attack could cause under varying circumstances. Most alarmingly, officials said, Trump revealed the city in the Islamic State’s territory where the U.S. intelligence partner detected the threat.
This is, however, a classic test of partisanship, of “imagine if Hillary/Obama/Pelosi/etc. had done this” counter-factuals. Republicans are going to come out and defend this, on the grounds that the president has the right to do it. They will dodge the question of whether it was wise. They will pretend it wasn’t about Trump trying to make himself sound important, and try to move along.