White House Brands Trump Intel Leak Story False 'as Reported,' Congress Wants 'Full Explanation'
WASHINGTON -- The White House pushed back on reports that President Trump disclosed highly classified "code word" information to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak while boasting of his "great intel" in an Oval Office meeting last week.
The Washington Post story, followed by a New York Times report, quickly stoked concerns on both side of the aisle, with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) telling reporters on Capitol Hill, "To compromise a source is something that you just don't do."
"That's why we keep the information that we get from intelligence sources so close, is to prevent that from happening," he added.
The Post reported that during the meeting Trump shared information "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," a disclosure that "jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State." The intelligence partner had not given the U.S. permission to share the information with Russia, and the paper cited unnamed officials expressing fear about the future of the extremely difficult endeavor to get intel from inside ISIS.
Thomas P. Bossert, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, apparently recognizing the scope of the damage that could be caused by the disclosure, allegedly hopped on the phone with the CIA and National Security Agency after the Trump meeting. The paper also reported that internal editing and limited distribution of the transcript of the meeting was sought to protect the compromised information.
The disclosure reportedly came in the context of talking about the terror threat that drove the Department of Homeland Security to ban laptops and tablets from the cabin of certain inbound flights to the United States, a ban expected to soon be widened to include flights from Europe. The Post said an official told them that Trump told the Russian officials before describing the intelligence, “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day."
Trump did not reveal the specific source or the methods, the story says, but revealed the specific city in ISIS territory involved in the plot and details that would make the source identifiable to Russian spy services. The paper said it withheld the name of the city at the request of U.S. intelligence services.
Deputy National Security Advisor Dina Powell called the story "false."
“The president only discussed the common threats that both countries faced," she said in a statement.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said during the meeting "the nature of specific threats were discussed, but they did not discuss sources, methods or military operations."
The White House later sent National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster outside for a brief statement, declaring "the story that came out tonight as reported is false."