Trump’s intelligence sharing with Russia
President Trump’s already strained relationship with the U.S. intelligence services took another blow this week after it was reported that he had disclosed highly classified information about an ISIS plot to Russian diplomats visiting the White House. During the Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the Kremlin’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, Trump revealed that ISIS had used stolen airport security equipment to test a bomb that could be hidden in a laptop and sneaked into an airplane cabin, U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News. The president also disclosed the name of the city where the intelligence was gathered. “I get great intel,” Trump told the Russians, according to The Washington Post. The intelligence, reportedly gathered by Israel, was meant for U.S. eyes only. Given the clues Trump provided, Russia could easily identify the source of the information, a former U.S. intelligence official told the Post. Countries will “think twice before sharing sensitive information after an event like this,” said Michael Herzog, a former Israeli intelligence officer. Trump defended his revelation of the plot, saying on Twitter that he had “the absolute right” to do so and that he’d wanted to persuade the Russians “to greatly step up their fight against ISIS.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said it was no longer clear whether Trump could be trusted with the nation’s “most closely kept secrets,” and called on the White House to release a transcript of the meeting. Russian President Vladimir Putin said that if Trump consented, he would hand over Lavrov’s transcript. Republican members of Congress expressed dismay over the incident. The White House, said Sen. Bob Corker, is “in a downward spiral right now.”
What the editorials said
As president, “Trump has the legal authority to share intelligence with pretty much whomever he wants,” said the Los Angeles Times. But that doesn’t make his blabbing “right or smart.” If Israel and other allies stop sharing sensitive information about terrorist plots with the U.S., American lives will be put in danger. It’s ironic that Trump came to power partly by claiming that his opponent “had so badly mishandled classified information that she deserved to go to jail.” What should we think now that the president has been accused of releasing critical state secrets?
Evidently the president “said too much out of carelessness or bravado,” said the Washington Examiner. Trump simply can’t grasp the gravity of the situation. “When he was merely a billionaire celebrity real estate developer he could afford to throw his weight around or be indiscreet.” But now Trump’s “every word carries immense clout,” something “Republicans, conservatives, and patriots of all stripes” need to make sure he understands.
What the columnists said
Trump has done nothing wrong, said Ted Galen Carpenter in TheAmericanConservative.com. His critics are so consumed by “anti-Russia hysteria” that they can’t understand why the president might have thought it important to discuss the plot with Lavrov and Kislyak. “Russia has been the victim of Islamic terrorist attacks on several occasions and is a de facto ally in the war against ISIS.” By informing Moscow about this new jihadist threat, the U.S. is more likely to secure the Kremlin’s cooperation in tackling other international challenges like North Korea.
But “Russia is an enemy” of the U.S. and Israel, said Alan Dershowitz in TheHill.com. Putin backs Syria’s genocidal leader, Bashar al- Assad, and is good friends with the mullahs who rule Iran and their Lebanese terrorist puppet, Hezbollah. Assad, Iran, and Hezbollah are all violently anti-American and committed to the destruction of the Jewish state. Whatever intelligence Trump provided Russia might “end up in the hands of these enemies of peace and stability.”
Still, “this doesn’t look like collusion with the Russians,” said Eli Lake in Bloomberg.com. “Collusion” suggests that the information shouldn’t be shared, but we do want the Russians to know about terrorist threats against airlines—just as long as intelligence is passed along carefully. Indeed, “both of Trump’s predecessors pursued sensitive counterterrorism partnerships with Putin.” Yet there’s little comfort to be found in the most likely explanation for this momentous gaffe: “The president is bad at his job. Stupid trumps sinister.” ■