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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Wednesday, May 24, 2017

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A day after firing the man probing the Trump-Russia connection

President Trump leaked classified details about ISIS to Russian diplomats

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WASHINGTON, U.S. - More shocking leaks continue to pour out of Trump’s oval office - that has become the epicenter of controversy in recent months.> BNN

With the dust not settling on the botched handling of the firing of FBI Director James Comey, now another revelation has gripped the White House and has even reportedly caused a rift in Trump’s own team. 

A report in The Washington Post claimed on Monday that current and former U.S. officials have revealed details of Trump’s highly controversial meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. 

According to the officials, at the meeting, Trump had revealed highly classified information to senior Russian officials, putting a source of intelligence on the Islamic State at risk.

The officials told the Post that Trump shared details with the Russian officials, about an ISIS terror threat, related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft.

The anonymous officials further pointed out that the information Trump relayed during the Oval Office meeting had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement. 

The information was considered so sensitive, that details of it had even been withheld from allies and was tightly restricted even within the U.S. government.

The officials providing the crucial information to the media said that the disclosure risks harming Trump’s credibility with U.S. partners around the world ahead of his first overseas trip. 

The Post said in its report that the intelligence partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russian officials. 

However, by sharing this critical piece of information, Trump would have jeopardized cooperation from an ally that is familiar with the inner workings of the ISIS, and make other allies - or even U.S. intelligence officials - wary about sharing future top secret details with the president.

The report, that was later carried in all leading mainstream publications noted that White House officials were gripped with anxiety after the expose came to light and immediately took steps to contain the damage.

Thomas P. Bossert, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism reportedly placed calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency.

A handful of White House staffers, including Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders were then seen rushing to the Cabinet Room, where an argument broke out and voices carried towards the area where reporters spent much of the evening, hoping for a reaction from officials. 

While the report drew strong condemnation from Democrats, it also attracted a rare rebuke of Trump from some Republican lawmakers. 

Meanwhile, White House officials denounced the report and said the president did not disclose intelligence sources or methods to the Russians.

Officials did not however, directly deny that classified information was disclosed in the May 10 meeting.

In a statement, H.R. McMaster, Trump's national security adviser argued, “The story that came out tonight as reported is false. The president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries including threats to civil aviation. At no time, at no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed and the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known. I was in the room, it didn't happen.”

Further disputing the information, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that Trump discussed a range of subjects with the Russians, including "common efforts and threats regarding counter-terrorism." 

He said that the nature of specific threats was discussed but not sources, methods or military operations.

Meanwhile, Trump took to Twitter to put forward his argument - he said he had an "absolute right" and engaged in the discussion for "humanitarian reasons."

Without calling the information classified, Trump referred to the information as "facts pertaining to terrorism and airline safety." 

Trump wrote in a two-part tweet, “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.”

GOP Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters the Trump White House "has got to do something soon to bring itself under control and order."

Corker pointed out, “The shame of it is there's a really good national security team in place and there are good, productive things that are under way through them and through others. But the chaos that is being created by the lack of discipline - it's creating an environment that I think makes - it creates a worrisome environment."

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that if the information is true it would be "deeply disturbing."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York also called the information "disturbing.” 

He said, “Revealing classified information at this level is extremely dangerous and puts at risk the lives of Americans and those who gather intelligence for our country."

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, who called the story "deeply disturbing" said if it's true, the disclosure could jeopardize sources of very sensitive intelligence and relationships with key allies.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., meanwhile pointed out, “These reports, if true, are of the gravest possible concern. It could harm our national security by cutting off important sources of intelligence that protect Americans against terrorist acts."

While the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence have declined to comment - the revelations drew cries of hypocrisy. 

Reports pointed out that throughout his campaign, Trump attacked his opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, claiming that should be locked up for careless handling of classified information.

Further, it has threatened Trump’s already contentious relationship with U.S. intelligence agencies, whose competency he has openly questioned several times.

He has also challenged their assessment that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election to help him win.

 

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