Trump, McMaster explain intel leak

A story yesterday from the Washington Post (summary of details from Politifact in The shifting explanations of Trump’s Russia disclosures):

The Washington Post on May 15 reported that Trump had betrayed the confidence of a highly secretive intelligence-sharing arrangement and jeopardized an intelligence source by disclosing details of an unfolding ISIS plot to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in a May 10 visit to the White House.

“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,” the Post report states, adding that Trump also revealed the ISIS-held city where the source gleaned the intelligence, which was considered “code-word information,” one of the highest classification levels.

According to the Post, following Trump’s meeting with the Russian delegation, senior White House officials “took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency.”

That information about the meeting was leaked has not been disputed. This is a serious issue in a very leak prone White House (and agencies).

An early response from national security adviser H.R. McMaster:

“The president and the foreign minister reviewed common threats from terrorist organizations to include threats to aviation. At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed, and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson statement:

“During President Trump’s meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov, a broad range of subjects were discussed among which were common efforts and threats regarding counter-terrorism. During that exchange the nature of specific threats were discussed, but they did not discuss sources, methods or military operations.”

Later Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell said:

“This story is false. The president only discussed the common threats that both countries faced.”

Washington Post has responded:

While the White House calibrated its early messaging, the Washington Post defended its reporting, accusing the White House of “playing word games” to blunt the impact of its reporting, and saying Trump’s disclosures had the potential to be “reverse-engineered” to figure out sources or methods.

It also noted that no member of the administration had denied that Trump had shared classified information with Russia, the crux of the Post report.

A later statement from McMaster:

“The story that came out tonight as reported is false. Two other senior officials who were present, including the secretary of the state, remember the meeting the same way and have said so. Their on-the-record accounts should outweigh those of anonymous sources.

“I was in the room. It didn’t happen.”

Trump has tweeted:

“As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety”.

“Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.”

In a press conference later McMaster re-emphasised he thought that Trump’s conduct was “wholly appropriate” but obviously couldn’t divulge any details of intel revealed to the Russians.

“It was our impression of all of us who were in the meeting that what was shared was wholly appropriate given the purpose of the conversation, and the purpose of what the president was trying to achieve through that meeting.”

Did the president share classified information in the meeting?

“We don’t say what’s classified, what’s not classified.”

The story combined what was leaked with other information, and then insinuated about sources and methods,”.

I want to make clear that the president in no way compromised any sources or methods in the course of this conversation.

The leak was acknowledged.

I think that national security is put at risk by this leak, and by leaks like this, and you know there are a number of instances where this has occurred.

But his final comment has left the issue up in the air:

There are no sensitivities in terms of me or anyone who’s been with the president on any of these engagements. He shares information in a way that is wholly appropriate.

I should make the statement that the president wasn’t even aware of where this information came from, he wasn’t briefed on the source or method of the information either.

So apparently it is wholly appropriate for the president to say whatever he likes, and reveal whatever intelligence he sees fit, without knowing where the information comes from or what the source of the information was.

Countries that supply intelligence to the US may ponder that when considering what information they supply.

Edited interview (thanks Gezza):

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41 Comments

  1. Trump is going on his first overseas trip as president later this week – to Israel.

    Has he been set up or slapped by Israeli interests within his administration, or the CIA and the National Security Agency?
    (White House officials “took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency.”)

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  May 17, 2017

      If it was laptop bomb info it has certainly already been shared with the UK who have put their own flight bans in place.

      Reply
  2. David

     /  May 17, 2017

    Intel was from Israel and they are quite happy for it to be shared. The intel was related to laptop bombs on civilian airplanes so regardless of what you think about Putin its the right thing to do to share known risks given the 100 or so innocent Russian holiday makers who got blown out of the sky. Russia and the West are fighting almost side by side against ISIS.
    Whatever you think about Trump McMaster would have to be one of the most trusted people in the intel community and I would take his word over an annonymous source and the very bias washington post.

    Reply
    • How do you know Israel are quite happy for Trump to share their intelligence with Russia?

      Reply
    • Gezza

       /  May 17, 2017

      Russia’s not really doing a lot to fight ISIS in Syria, they’re mainly fighting the *anti-Assad terrorists* ( 🙄). Who knows where the intel came from? I would’ve thought the main concern would be that whoever supplied it has a source in ISIS, & that any such plot would be known to a select few, who may now track down & eliminate that source. But on the other hand, if the intel was going to result in bans or special checks on laptops of people travelling from Europe, the same thing might’ve happened anyway. Either way, it does look like Big Mouth blurted out something unexpected again & everyone’s trying to cover their asses. The leaks to Wapo, even if they are from genuine sources, only make it worse.

      Reply
    • Joe Bloggs

       /  May 17, 2017

      Intel was from Israel and they are quite happy for it to be shared

      David, I call bullshit on that. The intel is described as a highly classified code-word source, that was given to the US by an ally, Israel, who did not give consent for it to be shared with Russia.

      Russia and the West are fighting almost side by side against ISIS.

      And I call bullshit on that as well. Washington’s objective is to beat back ISIS and retake its self-declared capital of Raqqa. Russia’s objective is to ensure that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad manages to stay in power. The two objectives are quite distinct, even though at times they appear to overlap. That’s why Russia has bombed US-backed rebels the Pentagon was relying on to fight both Assad and ISIS. And that’s why Russia insists that Assad has a seat at the settlement table where Washington demands he plays no role at all.

      You also ignore the fact that Russia shares intelligence with Iran, and is working closely with Iran to prop up Assad in Syria, so the possibility exists that anything that gets to Moscow ends up in Tehran. Given the antagonism between Israel and Iran, Trump may have just burnt off his primary source of intel in the Middle East. In January this year Israel was warned not to share intel with the White House for this very reason. To the extent that the Israelis were already worried then, their worst fears have just been realised.

      And the implications go beyond Israel. Trump has just shown that no foreign country, anywhere, can depend on the United States.

      Trump leaking like a sieve (do you detect the hypocrisy?) is not a criminal act because he has the power to declassify whatever he chooses. But as I’ve highlighted before, he has breached the Presidential Oath of Office (like he’s done over foreign emoluments, only more seriously this time) and that’s an impeachable act.

      And if you think that the Presidential Oath of Office is irrelevant, then think again. Congress has alleged oath violations all three times it has passed or seriously contemplated articles of impeachment against presidents: against Andrew Johnson, Nixon and Clinton.

      Reply
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  6. Alan Wilkinson

     /  May 17, 2017

    Will anyone trust the US Left anymore?

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  May 17, 2017

      Are you kidding me? Who trusts anyone in the US political system now – whatever side of the spectrum they’re on? Crazyworld. From President down.

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  May 17, 2017

        If I was Trump I would be looking to fire every Democrat appointee or staffer with Democrat links in the intel agencies. A bit like Muslims: if you can’t trust one, you can’t trust any.

        Tough, but that’s how it stands now.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  May 17, 2017

          Aljazeera commenter – former National Security Council member under Bush & Obama administrations, said the leaker is believed to be a Republican? I agree they need to plug the leaks urgently though. Not much they can do about their President’s tendency for stuff to go in one ear & straight out his gob, but they have to get control of the crazy elsewhere.

          Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  May 17, 2017

            Sounds highly unlikely unless it is a Jeb Bush faction. But an intel agency that can’t secure its own has to be fixed or shut down.

            Reply
            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  May 17, 2017

              Down-ticked like a true moron, whoever you are. I really wonder how such idiots function at all?

        • David

           /  May 17, 2017

          “If I was Trump I would be looking to fire every Democrat appointee or staffer with Democrat links in the intel agencies.”

          This is Trump’s fault. He has left hundreds of Obama appointees in place, nearly 90% of his appointments are not filled and are either vacant or still have Obama’s people in place. It is becoming a crippling mistake, until he cleans house the way he is supposed to, these stories will be daily from ‘official’ sources.

          Reply
  7. He might be able to keep up on Al Jazeera while he’s in the Middle east.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  May 17, 2017

      The sort of coverage he gets on Aljaz tv he’d probably go ballistic & order a tomahak strike on their newsroom.

      Reply
    • Conspiratoor

       /  May 17, 2017

      “two advisors say”. Ho hum. Another day another anonysource…

      Reply
  8. Gezza

     /  May 17, 2017

    More crazy from the United States of Hysterica:

    Reply
  9. Zedd

     /  May 17, 2017

    about as credible as; ‘I did not have relations with that woman’ OR ‘i tried it.. but didnt inhale.. man’ 😀

    Reply
  10. Joe Bloggs

     /  May 17, 2017

    Comey leaves an explosive paper trail:

    A bombshell memo written by fired FBI Director James Comey alleges Donald Trump tried to shut down the investigation into his former National Security Adviser, General Michael Flynn.

    “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump told Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
    Comey wrote the memo immediately after his meeting with the President the day after Mr Flynn resigne.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=11857612

    Reply
    • Joe Bloggs

       /  May 17, 2017

      “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

      Check-mate, no wonder Ryan and McConnell are fighting an independent investigation.

      Reply
    • David

       /  May 17, 2017

      “The Times has not seen Comey’s memo, but says one of the former FBI boss’s associates read excerpts of it to a reporter.”

      Well that sounds like a credible way to gather news.

      Reply
      • Joe Bloggs

         /  May 17, 2017

        Do you really need to wait until Comey reads his memo out in a public hearing? Really?

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  May 17, 2017

          No, there’ll be another Lefty media brain fart tomorrow. No need to wait for anything.

          Reply
          • artcroft

             /  May 17, 2017

            And tomorrow . when the memo is handed over there’ll be more excuses about “its all a conspiracy against Tump”.

            Reply
        • David

           /  May 17, 2017

          Of course. That would make it a first hand source. Not third hand. There is a difference.

          Reply
        • High Flying Duck

           /  May 17, 2017

          Let’s just say there is skepticism at this stage as to whether this memo is real – as the below says, if the memo is True Comey was incredibly negligent not coming forward at the time.

          http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/senate-intelligence-chairman-burr-skeptical-comey-memo-is-real/article/2623288

          “Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr late Tuesday cast doubt on the veracity of a reported memo in which former FBI Director James Comey said President Trump requested he drop the FBI’s investigation into former national security adviser Mike Flynn.

          “I actually believe the director might have told us that there’d been a request like that and it was never mentioned by him,” the North Carolina Republican told reporters. “So somebody’s going to have to do more than have anonymous sources on this one for me to believe that there’s something there.”

          Burr, who is leading a probe into Russian interference in the 2016 elections along side Virginia Democrat Mark Warner, said he’d not personally read the New York Times’ report yet, but heard about it from fellow Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

          According to the report, Comey authored a memo summarizing a conversation with the president, quoting Trump as asking him to end the investigation into Flynn, who served Trump during the campaign and in the earliest days of the administration. “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump is quoted as saying, according to the outlet. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

          The gravity of the accusation inspired even Trump’s more willing Republican critics to tread lightly. “I’m not going to opine about a memo,” Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., said. “We’re not going to try somebody on a piece of paper.”

          If the memo is correct, it’s a serious charge against the president, but won’t necessarily endear Comey to lawmakers on Capitol Hill. “If this happened, the FBI director should have done something about it or quit,” Graham said. “If the president asked the FBI director to do something inappropriate, the FBI director should have said no and quit.”

          The Times report is based on “one of Mr. Comey’s associates” who read parts of the memo to a reporter, but did not hand over the document.

          Burr was not impressed by the sourcing. “I could write something and I could read it over the phone and tell them that it came from [Comey],” he told reporters. “I think the burden is on the New York Times, if they’re reporting it and they’ve got somebody that’s got the document, they need to get the document and get it released.”

          Burr noted that he met with Comey the day before Trump fired him. “The director of the FBI shared more information with Sen. Warner and myself than any director has ever shared,” he said. “I think something as material as that probably would have been something he would have shared, had it happened,” he said.”

          Reply
          • Joe Bloggs

             /  May 17, 2017

            Nevertheless House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz appears to have already committed to subpoenaing the Comey memo, if necessary, to get it and other similar memos from the FBI.

            And if the memo exists and is accurate then there’s at least prima facie evidence that would tend to support inferences of obstruction:

            According to the memo, after all, a conversation took place in which the President asked the FBI director to “see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” and, in the [NY]Times’s words, “told Mr. Comey that Mr. Flynn had done nothing wrong.” So assuming the memo is accurate, there’s at least an act that a reasonable person would understand as seeking to influence the investigation…. While in and of itself, the request could be understood as just a plea for mercy, which is not obviously obstructive, the fact that it comes from a superior with the power to remove the investigator—alongside the fact that Trump then did fire Comey—makes obstruction a plausible reading of the apparent facts.
            https://www.lawfareblog.com/another-bomb-drops-initial-thoughts-trump-asking-comey-kill-flynn-investigation

            Reply
            • High Flying Duck

               /  May 17, 2017

              I completely agree.If it exists and can be shown to be accurate I think Trump would have to resign. But “if it exists” is a very big caveat.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  May 17, 2017

              Depends a lot on context. It doesn’t say Flynn had done nothing wrong. It says Trump thinks he is a good man and wants to see him on his team so he hopes he will be cleared by the investigation. That really is an obvious statement of the situation after the President has appointed someone and there are unproven allegations against him. Comey could hardly have expected the President to feel otherwise. So is stating the obvious improper let alone a resignation issue?

  11. Joe Bloggs

     /  May 17, 2017

    Right-wing blogger Eric Erickson: I know one of the sources … the source is solidly supportive of President Trump … I am told that what the President did is actually far worse than what is being reported.

    Time for right-wing snowflakes to read and digest how badly they’ve been conned by trump

    I tend to take these stories about the President with a grain of salt. We have seen key details of a number of salacious stories retracted within 48 hours. The media hates the President so much that they’ll run a negative story about him without very much provocation. Anti-Trump sources embedded within the administration in the career civil service, etc. will leak to the press and confirmation bias sets in.

    What sets this story apart for me, at least, is that I know one of the sources. And the source is solidly supportive of President Trump, or at least has been and was during Campaign 2016. But the President will not take any internal criticism, no matter how politely it is given. He does not want advice, cannot be corrected, and is too insecure to see any constructive feedback as anything other than an attack.

    So some of the sources are left with no other option but to go to the media, leak the story, and hope that the intense blowback gives the President a swift kick in the butt. Perhaps then he will recognize he screwed up. The President cares vastly more about what the press says than what his advisers say. That is a real problem and one his advisers are having to recognize and use, even if it causes messy stories to get outside the White House perimeter.

    I am told that what the President did is actually far worse than what is being reported. The President does not seem to realize or appreciate that his bragging can undermine relationships with our allies and with human intelligence sources. He also does not seem to appreciate that his loose lips can get valuable assets in the field killed.

    You can call these sources disloyal, traitors, or whatever you want. But please ask yourself a question — if the President, through inexperience and ignorance, is jeopardizing our national security and will not take advice or corrective action, what other means are available to get the President to listen and recognize the error of his ways?

    This is a real problem and I treat this story very seriously because I know just how credible, competent, and serious — as well as seriously pro-Trump, at least one of the sources is.

    http://theresurgent.com/i-know-one-of-the-sources/

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  May 17, 2017

      Solidly supportive leaking selective partisan attacks to the most hostile media outlets. Yeah, right.

      Reply
      • Joe Bloggs

         /  May 17, 2017

        Yeah whatever… I get that you’re still defending the indefensible. You’ve aligned yourself with trump and are too proud/stubborn to admit you’re guilty of poor judgement…

        But “the most hostile media outlets”? Really? That would be every reputable media outlet in the world basically. There’s not a single legitimate media outlet that uncritically supports trump any more.

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  May 17, 2017

          As utterly fatuous as most of your opinions. There are plenty of media publishers in the world who take a balanced view of reporting US politics. WaPo is not one of them. Neither is NYT although there are some signs of more nuance there. Uncritically supporting Trump is not a criteria.

          Reply
        • High Flying Duck

           /  May 17, 2017

          There is no ‘alignment’ Joe.
          It’s just that every allegation remains from “anonymous sources” and there is still nothing being backed up with evidence.
          Theresurgent site is right wing but extremely anti-Trump.
          all these stories are coming from Washington Post and NYT who have as good as publicly stated their desire to remove Trump at all costs.
          Until there is evidence it remains the longest hissy fit in media history.

          The high ranking people who attended the meeting and who have come out in support of Trump’s view he disclosed nothing inappropriate in the meeting are not partisan or lightweights.

          The WaPo report’s 2 sources were not in the meeting.

          It may be a scandal. It may be the end of Trump. At this stage it remains unsubstantiated rumour mongering.

          Read the WaPo report and see how many partisan opinions from Trump opponents are used to show what a gaffe it was.

          Ditto the Comey memo, which directly contradicts sworn testimony of the FBI that the White House never tried to impede the Russia investigations in any way.

          Reply
        • artcroft

           /  May 17, 2017

          I’ve read Erikson. He’s very conservative and no fan of Trump. But he’s a small minority within the conservative movement.

          Reply
    • Erik Erikson and Trump hae history and had a serious clash during the campaign because of comments by Erikson on his Conservative Blog. So add a bit of salt to the tail.

      Reply

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