As expected, immediately after Wapo published their latest provocative Trump story, the mainstream media echo chamber went into full effect, first NYT.
We have confirmed elements of the blockbuster Post story. Read our initial version here. Developing. https://t.co/eD1EleSNZH— Michael D. Shear (@shearm) May 15, 2017
JUST IN: Two U.S. officials confirm Washington Post report that Trump revealed highly classified information in meeting with Russia's Lavrov— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) May 15, 2017
This tweet sums it up pretty well:
CNN citing HuffPo citing Maddow citing the Washington Post citing sources citing scribble on a cocktail napkin at the D.C. Hyatt lounge https://t.co/grUHXhMopE— Quoth the Raven (@QTRResearch) May 15, 2017
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy Dina Powell, all of whom were in the room during the meeting in question, all issued statements denying that classified information was divulged:
Rex Tillerson: "During President Trump's meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov a broad range of subjects were discussed among which were common efforts and threats regarding counter-terrorism. During that exchange the nature of specific threats were discussed, but they did not discuss sources, methods or military operations."
H.R. McMaster: "The president and the foreign minister reviewed common threats from terrorist organizations to include threats to aviation. At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly."
Dina Powell: "This story is false. The president only discussed the common threats that both countries faced."
Finally, Paul Ryan's office seems to have no idea what's going on.
Speaker Ryan's office speaks re WaPo story pic.twitter.com/E43TmRBbbw— Tarini Parti (@tparti) May 15, 2017
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Citing "current and former U.S. officials," all anonymous of course, the Washington Post has just reported that President Trump revealed "highly classified information" to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week which jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State. Per WaPo, the sensitive information allegedly relayed by Trump 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.
The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said that Trump’s decision to do so risks 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 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.”
“It is all kind of shocking,” said a former senior U.S. official 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.”
According to the WaPo's rendition of the story, the "highly classified information" was shared as Trump was boasting about the quality of his daily intelligence briefings in last week's meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
“I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day,” Trump said, according to an official with knowledge of the exchange.
Trump went on to discuss aspects of the threat that the United States only learned through the espionage capabilities of a key partner. He did not reveal the specific intelligence gathering method, but 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.
“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 condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the subject.
Meanwhile, in an effort to add mystique to the story, and undoubtedly to draw a clear delineation between their "responsible journalism" and Julian Assange's reckless, hostile, non-state cyber terrorism, the Washington Post went on to note that they're withholding most of the juicy plot details, including the name of the city where the intelligence was gathered, at the urging of officials who warned that revealing them would jeopardize important intelligence capabilities.
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 that the capability could be useful for other purposes, possibly providing intelligence on Russia’s presence in Syria. Moscow and would be keenly interested in identifying that source and possibly disrupting it.
Russia and the United States both regard the Islamic State as an enemy and share limited information about terrorist threats. But the two nations have competing agendas in Syria, where Moscow has deployed military assets and personnel to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“Russia could identify our sources or techniques,” the senior U.S. official said. A former intelligence official who handled high-level intelligence on Russia said that given the clues Trump provided, “I don’t think that it would be that hard [for Russian spy services] to figure this out.”
So, just to clarify, Trump leaking to the Russians is bad, but anonymous sources leaking to Wapo is just fine.
Ironically, the only named source in the Washington Post's article is National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster who notes that the entire story is nothing more than "fake news." Of course, that didn't stop anyone from running the headline or spiking the story.
"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."
This latest story from WaPo comes after two similarly provocative stories were published by the New York Times and Washington Post last week and then promptly debunked by the FBI and Department of Justice. First there was the story from the NYT saying that Comey had asked for a "significant increase" in funding for his Russia probe just days before he was fired and then WaPo ran a story saying that Rod Rosenstein had threatened to quit when Trump attributed the Comey firing to his letter. Both accusations were subsequently denied on the record by the Department of Justice.
As we noted last week, even Andrew McCabe, the acting FBI Director whose wife sourced campaign funds directly from a close Hillary Clinton confidant dismantled the NYT's funding narrative in his Senate testimony by noting that the FBI doesn't even make funding requests for individual investigations.
Senator: "Can you confirm that that request [funding request for Russia probe] was, in fact, made?"
McCabe: "I can not confirm that request was made.
As you know, when we need resources, we make those requests here. So, I'm not aware of that request and it's not consistent with my understanding of how we request additional resources.
That said, we don't typically request resources for an individual case. And, as I mentioned, I strongly believe that the Russia investigation is adequately resourced."
We're awaiting confirmation that Chuck Schumer has called for yet another Senate hearing on this latest unsubstantiated "media report."