Trump and the Special Challenges of Handling Classified Material

Carla Harmon
May 18, 2017

The revelations could further damage Trump's already fraught relationship with USA intelligence agencies.

While some, like Harvard University professor and Bloomberg View columnist Noah Feldman, argue that Trump has the authority to declassify this kind of information and decide who to tell it to, Vladeck isn't convinced it's an open-and-shut case.

"And so I think the real issue, and I think what I'd like to see really debated more, is that our national security has been put at risk by those violating confidentiality, and those releasing information to the press that - that could be used, connected with other information available, to make American citizens and others more vulnerable".

Another possible casualty would be clandestine human sources, who may "think twice before providing the US with privileged information", added Dujmovic, who used to edit the daily intelligence report provided to presidents.

"The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russian Federation, and officials said Trump's decision to do so endangers cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State". His tweets came minutes after a spokeswoman for Russia's foreign ministry described the reports in a post on Facebook as "yet another fake".

Interestingly, in its denials, the White House has referenced activities that didn't appear in the Post's article, stating that they "didn't discuss sources, methods, or military operations".


Trump tweeted early Tuesday that he had the "absolute right" to share "facts" with Russian Federation to fight terrorism and ensure airline safety.

Allegations that the President passed Russian officials classified intelligence on Isis threats relating to a widening laptop ban on passenger aircraft have threatened to damage the US' relationship with allies.

"In the context of that discussion, what the president discussed with the (Russian) foreign minister was wholly appropriate to that conversation", McMaster said.

The White House would not comment on Israel being the source.

Asked why the NSA and Central Intelligence Agency were put on notice if the revelations were not problematic, McMaster cast the notification as being provided "from an overabundance of caution".

"I was in the room, and it didn't happen", McMaster said at the end of his abrupt statement.


"What was shared was wholly appropriate, given the goal of that conversation and the objective of what the president was trying to achieve through that meeting", McMaster said.

"We don't say what's classified, what's not classified".

"Regrettably, the time President Trump spent sharing sensitive information with the Russians was time he did not spend focusing on Russia's aggressive behaviour, including its interference in American and European elections, its illegal invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, its other destabilising activities across Europe, and the slaughter of innocent civilians and targeting of hospitals in Syria", Mr McCain added. "They can put together a good picture with just a few details", said John Sipher, a 28-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency who served in Moscow in the 1990s and later ran the CIA's Russian Federation program for three years.

Former defense secretary and CIA Director Leon Panetta told CNN's Chris Cuomo Tuesday that the fallout of breaching the trust of key allies by disclosing information could be significant. But he hasn't given further details, and the Post didn't publish everything it knew "at the urging of officials who warned that revealing them would jeopardize important intelligence capabilities". Just as news broke that U.S. President Donald Trump had shared classified information with the Russian government, two federal cabinet ministers arrived for dinner at the State Department.

But McMaster, at a crowded White House news conference, said Trump "wasn't even aware of where this information came from".


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