Report: Israel Source of ‘Highly Classified’ Intel Trump Gave to Russians
Current and former US government officials said that Israel was the source of the highly classified intelligence disclosed by President Donald Trump during last week’s White House meeting with top Russian officials.
One current and one former US official — both unnamed — told the New York Times that Trump disclosed intelligence regarding an Islamic State (IS) terrorist plot during the May 10 meeting with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak, and that at least some of the details of the plot came from Israel. The officials told the Times that Israeli authorities previously urged the Trump administration to be careful about how it handled the highly sensitive information.
On Monday, the Washington Post reported current and former US officials said that Trump revealed “highly classified” intelligence during the Oval Office meeting, and that the president’s action jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on IS activities. According to the Post, the source which provided the intelligence had not given Trump permission to share the information and his decision to do so could harm future cooperation from a close ally with deep knowledge and penetration of America’s leading adversary in its war against terrorism.
Sen. Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, tweeted that if the Post report is true, it is “a slap in the face to the intel community.”
“Risking sources & methods is inexcusable, particularly with the Russians,” tweeted Warner, whose committee is investigating the alleged hacking campaign waged by the Russian government to influence the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election in favor of Trump.
Some Democrats noted the president’s ceaseless campaign attacks blasting Hillary Clinton as someone who could not be trusted with classified information. “I don’t think it’s safe to have Hillary Clinton be briefed on national security because the word will get out,” Trump said last July. “We can’t have someone in the Oval Office who doesn’t understand the meaning of the word confidential or classified,” he added in September.
The seriousness of Trump’s alleged intelligence disclosure prompted criticism from some Republicans. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, accused the Trump White House of being in a “downward spiral.”
“To compromise a source is something that you just don’t do,” Corker told reporters on Monday. “That’s why we keep the information that we get from intelligence sources so close, is to prevent that from happening.”
Other critics noted Trump’s frequent campaign accusations that President Barack Obama and Clinton, his former secretary of state, destroyed the uniquely close relationship between the United States and Israel, even as the Obama administration approved the largest-ever military aid package to Israel and abandoned demands that it cease expansion of Jews-only settler colonies on occupied Palestinian territory. Both the occupation and the settlements are illegal under international law.
“We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect,” Trump said last December after the US took the rare step of abstaining from a vote on a United Nations resolution condemning Israel’s illegal settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. The resolution passed 14-0.
Israeli officials would not confirm to the Times that their country was the source of the intelligence shared by the president. Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer issued a statement reaffirming the uniquely close relationship between the two nations. “Israel has full confidence in our intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States and looks forward to deepening that relationship in the years ahead under President Trump,” Dermer said.
However, a diplomatic spat between the two countries erupted on Monday after US officials rejected an Israeli request for Trump to join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the Western Wall, the holiest prayer site for Jews. One American official reportedly told Israeli officials the site “is not in your territory.” Israel captured the site of the Western Wall, along with the rest of East Jerusalem, during a 1967 war against its Arab neighbors and their allies, and has illegally occupied it ever since. The row comes just days before Trump is to visit Israel on the first overseas trip of his presidency.
Trump, who has once again found himself on the defensive, tweeted on Tuesday that he had an “absolute right” to disclose any “facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety” to top Russian officials. Senior Trump administration officials issued statements denying the president disclosed “sources and methods.”
“The story that came out tonight, as reported, is false,” National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said in a statement. “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.”
“What the president discussed with the foreign minister was wholly appropriate to that conversation and is consistent with the routine sharing of information between the president and any leaders with whom he’s engaged,” McMaster said at a White House briefing on Tuesday ahead of a meeting there between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
When pressed at the briefing as to why the CIA and NSA were contacted following the Oval Office meeting — what officials familiar with the matter said was an act of damage control — if nothing was amiss, McMaster suggested the White House might be exercising “an overabundance of caution.”