National security risk: Putin’s puppet, Donald Trump

When Donald Trump hosted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office last Wednesday just hours after firing the FBI director James Comey who was overseeing an investigation into whether Trump’s team colluded with the Russians, he did so at the specific request of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia’s Oval Office Victory Dance:

The chummy White House visit—photos of the president yukking it up with Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak were released by the Russian Foreign Ministry since no U.S. press was allowed to cover the visit—had been one of Putin’s asks in his recent phone call with Trump, and indeed the White House acknowledged this to me later Wednesday. “He chose to receive him because Putin asked him to,” a White House spokesman said of Trump’s Lavrov meeting. “Putin did specifically ask on the call when they last talked.”

* * *

The images of Trump putting his arm genially on Lavrov’s back—and a later White House official readout of the meeting that said Trump “emphasized his desire to build a better relationship between the United States and Russia”—couldn’t have come at a more fraught political moment for Trump, amid a barrage of bipartisan criticism of his firing of FBI Director James Comey. On Wednesday morning before meeting with Trump, Lavrov even cracked a joke about his hosts’ political predicament, laughingly claiming not to have heard of the Comey firing while standing alongside Trump’s secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.

In other words, Lavrov was right where he has always wanted to be Wednesday: mocking the United States while being welcomed in the Oval Office by the president himself.

At the time, security experts raised concerns about the Russian state media being allowed into the oval office. Russian photographer’s visit to Oval Office raises security concerns:

The American press was barred, but a Russian photographer was allowed inside the Oval Office for a meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, raising concerns by some security experts.

The White House defended its security, but other former intelligence officials said the level of screening granted for a visitor may not have been sufficient enough to detect espionage devices, The Washington Post reports.

The Russian “had to go through the same screening as a member of the U.S. press going through the main gate to the [White House] briefing room,” a senior administration official told the Washington Post.

According to the newspaper, the administration official said the White House had been told the Russian was Lavrov’s official photographer but was not informed that he also worked for the Russian news agency Tass.

* * *

Russia also has a history of sneaking surveillance devices into U.S. facilities.

But now we learn that the real national security risk is Putin’s puppet, Donald Trump himself. The Washington Post reports Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador:

President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.

The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.

The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, 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. After Trump’s meeting, senior White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency.

“This is code-word information,” said a U.S. official familiar with the matter, using terminology that refers to one of the highest classification levels used by American spy agencies. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”

* * *

Trump welcomed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak — a key figure in earlier Russia controversies — into the Oval Office. 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.

For almost anyone in government, discussing such matters with an adversary would be illegal. As president, Trump has broad authority to declassify government secrets, making it unlikely that his disclosures broke the law.

White House officials involved in the meeting said Trump discussed only shared concerns about terrorism.

“The president and the foreign minister reviewed common threats from terrorist organizations to include threats to aviation,” said H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, who participated in the meeting. “At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed, and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly.”

McMaster reiterated his statement in a subsequent appearance at the White House on Monday and described the Washington Post story as “false,” but did not take any questions.

In their statements, White House officials emphasized that Trump had not discussed specific intelligence sources and methods, rather than addressing whether he had disclosed information drawn from sensitive sources.

The CIA declined to comment, and the NSA did not respond to requests for comment.

But officials expressed concern about Trump’s handling of sensitive information as well as his grasp of the potential consequences. Exposure of an intelligence stream that has provided critical insight into the Islamic State, they said, could hinder the United States’ and its allies’ ability to detect future threats.

“It is all kind of shocking,” said a former senior U.S. official who is close to current administration officials. “Trump seems to be very reckless and doesn’t grasp the gravity of the things he’s dealing with, especially when it comes to intelligence and national security. And it’s all clouded because of this problem he has with Russia.”

In his meeting with Lavrov, Trump seemed to be boasting about his inside knowledge of the looming threat. “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day,” the president said, according to an official with knowledge of the exchange.

Trump went on to discuss aspects of the threat that the United States learned only through the espionage capabilities of a key partner. He did not reveal the specific intelligence-gathering method, but he described how the Islamic State was pursuing elements of a specific plot and how much harm such an attack could cause under varying circumstances. Most alarmingly, officials said, Trump revealed the city in the Islamic State’s territory where the U.S. intelligence partner detected the threat.

The Post is withholding most plot details, including the name of the city, at the urging of officials who warned that revealing them would jeopardize important intelligence capabilities.

“Everyone knows this stream is very sensitive, and the idea of sharing it at this level of granularity with the Russians is troubling,” said a former senior U.S. counterterrorism official who also worked closely with members of the Trump national security team. He and others spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the subject.

The identification of the location was seen as particularly problematic, officials said, because Russia could use that detail to help identify the U.S. ally or intelligence capability involved. Officials said the capability could be useful for other purposes, possibly providing intelligence on Russia’s presence in Syria. Moscow would be keenly interested in identifying that source and perhaps disrupting it.

“Russia could identify our sources or techniques,” the senior U.S. official said.

* * *

Senior White House officials appeared to recognize quickly that Trump had overstepped and moved to contain the potential fallout. Thomas P. Bossert, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, placed calls to the directors of the CIA and the NSA, the services most directly involved in the intelligence-sharing arrangement with the partner.

One of Bossert’s subordinates also called for the problematic portion of Trump’s discussion to be stricken from internal memos and for the full transcript to be limited to a small circle of recipients, efforts to prevent sensitive details from being disseminated further or leaked.

White House officials defended Trump. “This story is false,” said Dina Powell, deputy national security adviser for strategy. “The president only discussed the common threats that both countries faced.”

But officials could not explain why staff members nevertheless felt it necessary to alert the CIA and the NSA.

How dangerous is Trump?

U.S. officials said that the National Security Council continues to prepare multi-page briefings for Trump to guide him through conversations with foreign leaders, but that he has insisted that the guidance be distilled to a single page of bullet points — and often ignores those.

“He seems to get in the room or on the phone and just goes with it, and that has big downsides,” the second former official said. “Does he understand what’s classified and what’s not? That’s what worries me.”

President Trump declared on Twitter early Tuesday that he had an “absolute right” to share with top Russian officials information about an Islamic State threat during a White House meeting last week.

Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 6.39.44 AM

So Trump tacitly admits to sharing classified information — just 12 hours after his top national security aides said the story was “false.” Trump just threw his top advisers under the bus … again. “And just as with last week, it seems, we now have the president pretty much contradicting his own staff on a major controversy.”

And the Russians are ramping up their “fake news” propaganda efforts in response. They are mocking America through the actions of their useful idiot, Donald Trump. Donald Trump Defends Sharing Intelligence With Russia:

Also on Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry denied that Mr. Trump had given classified information to Russian officials — and denigrated American news reports of the disclosure as “fake.”

“I just landed in Madrid,” the spokeswoman, Maria V. Zakharova, wrote on Facebook. “I turned on the phone, and there were dozens of messages. ‘Maria Vladimirova, is it true Trump revealed the most important secret?’ ”

Ms. Zakharova called the report “the latest fake,” and disparaged the newspapers that published it. “Guys, you are again reading American newspapers? You should not read them. They can be used in various ways, but there’s no need to read them — lately, this is not only harmful, but dangerous.”

She did not specify in what ways the newspapers should be used.

Ms. Zakharova said she predicted last Thursday, the day after the meeting, that American news organizations were preparing a “sensation” about the meeting. The news media’s plan included, she wrote, publishing secret photographs to “give this latest fake grounding and legitimacy.”

“This part of the information campaign we destroyed, having published photographs in accordance with all laws of professional ethics.”

She did not elaborate.

This is getting surreal.

24 Responses to National security risk: Putin’s puppet, Donald Trump

  1. Molly Ball‏Verified account @mollyesque 1h1 hour ago
    Asked a longtime House GOP staffer where things are headed. “This is like Reservoir Dogs. Everyone ends up dead on the floor.”

  2. if you good government liberal elitists get your way and trump is replaced pence what have you accomplished ? you stupidly think its the thought that counts not the consequences. wrong! 2018 will not be easier with president pence. this same stupidity occurred during the impeachment of clinton. good government liberals thought it was wrong to impeach clinton for perjury because he lied about sex and replace him with al gore who would easily have gotten re-elected in 2000.a crippled trump is far superior to pence who republicans like and independents will feel sorry for. you will get what you don’t want an effective republican.

    • For Sure Not Tom

      Pence is up to his pasty white butt in the Russian issue, too, he’ll most likely go down with the orange loser.

      He was part of the campaign, he has no alibi.

      Preibus and Ryan are dirty, and Sessions met with Kislyak at the GOP convention on the campaign dime.

      And even if Pence survives, we don’t leave a Russian agent in the Oval Office of the White House of the Unites States of America.

      I’ve defended you in the past, Captain, but you are getting a wee bit trollish lately.

      • that type of thinking has got the democratic party in the mess we are in! they are now polling illegal aliens to get trumps numbers down. pollster marc penn has revealed what games the pollsters are playing. likely voters will be voting in 2018 not illegal aliens or other non citizens unless you believe trump!

  3. Frances Perkins

    Can you imagine a scenario of a President H. Clinton doing exactly the same thing Comrade Trump has done? The House would already have filed the Impeachments papers.

    • This is about white male celebrity billionaire privilege and a GOP dominated House and Senate.

      I suppose it is also about a nation with enough stupid people to vote for him so that it appears he won the electoral vote.

  4. Meanwhile, the reality show presidency just can’t stop giving new headlines:

    Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation
    By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDTMAY 16, 2017

    WASHINGTON — President Trump asked the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.

    “I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo.

    The existence of Mr. Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and F.B.I. investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia.

    Mr. Comey shared the existence of the memo with senior F.B.I. officials and close associates. The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of the memo to a Times reporter.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/16/us/politics/james-comey-trump-flynn-russia-investigation.html?_r=1

  5. at last you have evidence of incompetence ;but not a crime. still 2018 is a long way away. latest polls have 95% of trump voters saying they would vote for him again because he hates the same people they hate. also 5 % of clinton voters now say they would vote for trump! in election were held today poll trump 43% clinton 40% johnson 4% stein4% voter suppression is now going on in red states to make 2018 even harder.. voting machines in detroit have still not been repaired or replaced. as former c.i.a. chief woolsey keeps saying 25% of voting machines have no paper trail and republicans not russia can manipulate them as they did in wisconsin as the recount showed no paper trail.

    • For Sure Not Tom

      Wrong.

      I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God

      Comrade Trump violated his oath, which is actually a federal crime.

      In fact him just walking around breathing violates his oath at this point, the guy is that corrupt.

  6. McMaster says Trump’s talks with Russia were ‘wholly appropriate,’ won’t say if information was classified
    Jacob Pramuk | @jacobpramuk

    National security advisor H.R. McMaster said Tuesday that President Donald Trump’s recent talks with Russian diplomats were “wholly appropriate,” without confirming or denying whether the information he shared was classified.

    McMaster added that Trump decided during the conversation to share the information with Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador to the U.S., suggesting that the White House had not planned to reveal it beforehand.

    “He made the decision in the context of the conversations, which is wholly appropriate,” McMaster told reporters.

    McMaster contended that Trump did nothing to compromise national security. He added that Trump was not briefed on the source of the information and reiterated that the president did not reveal any sources or methods for gathering it. The Washington Post did not report that Trump revealed sources.

    http://www.cnbc.com/2017/05/16/mcmaster-stands-by-earlier-statement-says-trump-never-put-national-security-at-risk.html

    • Don’t y’all feel better now knowing that Trump revealed highly (maybe/maybe not) classified information only “in the context” of the conversation he was having with his Russian comrades? It was wholly appropriate so we can all move on, I suppose.

      • For Sure Not Tom

        It’s a violation of his oath of office.

        Lock him up!

      • MSNBC has confirmed the source is Israel.

        • For Sure Not Tom

          I’m betting Mr. Trump won’t be leaking anything NEW from Israel.

          Or anything NEW from Germany, or Britain, or my aunt Blabby…

          Way to burn the intel bridges.

  7. Ted Lieu‏Verified account @tedlieu 8 minutes ago

    Dear @POTUS: Issue is not getting Russia’s help. It’s that you compromised key ally & put lives at risk by leaking code-word classified info

  8. Candidate Trump on classified information:

  9. So, this morning I was quite anxious to hear what had been decided overnight to explain why the buffoon-in-chief revealed highly classified information to his Russian visitors. Apparently, they decided that a flat out denial wouldn’t fly, so they’ve settled on the buffoon having the “right” to share this information because he is the president.

    Amazing. As we descend deeper and deeper into the reality show presidency, we now learn that highly classified intelligence which is vital to our national security may be used by the buffoon “president” to entertain and impress his Russian buddies / comrades.

    • For Sure Not Tom

      No one is going to share intel with us until Mr. Trump and his crew of s**tlords are removed from DC.

      FYI, s**tlords is the alt-right’s own term for themselves, they would not consider it insulting.

      That’s how low Mr. Trump has brought my country, and we’re not even halfway through its first term.

      • We’re not even halfway through the first year of the first term. When is enough going to be enough to start the “unfit to lead” discussion and stay on it relentlessly until “they” hear it?

        • Will Trump advocates ever hear the message that Trump is unfit to lead? The more stupid and injurious his actions, the more his followers love him.

          • No, his supporters will follow him off the cliff. But it does appear that the intelligence community is fed up with him and his Russian associates.

          • For Sure Not Tom

            It’s going to take some time to get the freak show out of the White House.

            Maybe a year.

            But he’s gone. The GOP will put party over country for as long as they can, but wow, over the last week there’s been a scandal a day.

            Flynn is going to be charged, Manafort, others, that will put pressure on the GOP, and they’re already laying the groundwork for Trump to leave office for medical reasons, claiming he has Alzheimer’s like his klansman daddy.

            Don’t forget, he won the electoral college by a scant 80,000 votes, and lost the popular vote by 3 million.

            The pussygrabbing PeePee man is not popular.

            2018, and in the meantime, the GOP owns this.

          • I noticed Trump is looking bad these days.
            Medical reasons may not be a stretch.