My colleague Michael Walsh said on “Hot Mic” Friday that we should not believe “one single thing” printed by the mainstream media about the president. That’s excellent advice, given the huge number of “corrections” major media has been forced to print when their anonymously sourced stories fall apart. There is a monumental credibility gap between the public and the media that is, at this point, irreversible.
But then, closing one’s mind entirely is just as dangerous as believing everything printed by the MSM. Case in point: An alarming story in the Washington Post about what the president said in his Oval Office meeting with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador to the US.
It comes with the usual caveats. Does it ring true to you?
One day after dismissing Comey, Trump welcomed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak — a key figure in earlier Russia controversies — into the Oval Office. It was during that meeting, officials said, that Trump went off script and began describing details of an Islamic State terrorist threat related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft.
For almost anyone in government, discussing such matters with an adversary would be illegal. As president, Trump has broad authority to declassify government secrets, making it unlikely that his disclosures broke the law.
“The president and the foreign minister reviewed common threats from terrorist organizations to include threats to aviation,” said H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, who participated in the meeting. “At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed, and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly.”
The CIA declined to comment, and the NSA did not respond to requests for comment.
But officials expressed concern about Trump’s handling of sensitive information as well as his grasp of the potential consequences. Exposure of an intelligence stream that has provided critical insight into the Islamic State, they said, could hinder the United States’ and its allies’ ability to detect future threats.
“It is all kind of shocking,” said a former senior U.S. official who is close to current administration officials. “Trump seems to be very reckless and doesn’t grasp the gravity of the things he’s dealing with, especially when it comes to intelligence and national security. And it’s all clouded because of this problem he has with Russia.”
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.
“It is all kind of shocking,” said a former senior U.S. official who has absolutely no firsthand knowledge of what transpired. So what the hell is the Post getting his reaction for?
The Post says that “current and former” officials said “Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.” You don’t have to read between the lines to know that the country that gave us the intel was probably Israel and if I can figure that out, I’m sure the Russians could too. So much for “jeopardizing” a “critical source” of intelligence.
But what was it exactly that Trump told the Russians?
The president probably said too much, but it’s not likely he gave away any secrets. WaPo said as much in the article:
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.
So, what’s the story? Donald Trump has a big mouth and tried to impress the Russians with some inside information on ISIS. But revealing ‘highly classified information”?