U.S. news outlets were more than a little surprised last week to discover that President Donald Trump had invited Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak — a central figure in the allegations that members of Trump’s campaign worked with Russian intelligence during the 2016 election — to join him in the Oval Office during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. But the bigger surprise was yet to come.
On Monday, the Washington Post dropped some leaked details of Trump’s discussion with Sergei and Sergey. Citing “current and former U.S. officials,” the Post said that Trump had divulged “highly classified information” to the two Russian officials, and thereby “jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.”
One source told the Post that Trump had “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”
From the initial reporting, it’s not clear what Trump told the Russians, or where he got the information from — only that it allegedly came from “an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government.” Without knowing the contents of the intelligence or its source, it’s hard to gauge the scope of the potential fallout.
But if the Post’s report is accurate, this could count as one of the most remarkable moments in Trump’s uncomfortably cozy relationship with the Russian government — the same government that, according to the United States intelligence committee, carried out an unprecedented act of sabotage on the American electoral system in 2016.
The Post’s scoop also comes just one week after Trump abruptly canned the director of the FBI, and only four days after he admitted that the FBI’s investigation into his associates’ contacts with Russia played a role in his thinking — potentially an admission of obstruction of justice.
Throughout the course of his campaign for the White House, Trump repeatedly attacked Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton for maintaining a private email server, and thereby risking the exposure of insufficiently secured classified information.
Crooked Hillary Clinton and her team "were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information." Not fit!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 6, 2016
Instead of forcing the Russians to hack an unsecured server, Trump apparently spared them a step this time around.