Why You Should Care That Trump Shared Highly Classifed Information With Russia

Barely a week after President Trump abruptly fired former FBI Director James Comey, he’s facing criticism from both sides of the aisle for another shocking move. Yesterday, The Washington Post broke the news that Trump had, according to White House insiders, shared highly classified information about the Islamic State, or ISIS, with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador. The Post went on to report that Trump revealed “code-word”—a.k.a., super top-secret—information in his meeting with the Russian officials that many of our allies and top government officials weren’t even aware of.

Whether you’re a hard-core liberal, defensive conservative, or just plain tired of hearing about Trump, you should care about him going off-script with two Russian visitors to share intelligence secrets. Here’s why:

First, Trump’s overshare jeopardizes the United States’ relationship with a key ally. According to the Post’s report, the unidentified source did not give the U.S. permission to share this information with Russia. The information they shared with the U.S. included inner-workings of ISIS, including a terrorist plot involving laptops on airplanes, learned through classified espionage. The source of the information now has reason not to trust the U.S., which could prevent further collaboration in the fight against ISIS. “If that partner learned we’d given this to Russia without their knowledge or asking first,” an unnamed official told the Post, “that is a blow to that relationship.”

Threatening a crucial source of intelligence should be bad enough, but there’s more to worry about. Trump’s overshare confirms some suspicions about his close relationship with Russia. Trump’s meeting with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador took place the day after he fired Comey—and no members of the American press were allowed in the room, according to The New York Times. Without any check on his conversation, Trump shared his knowledge of “great intel” with the Russian officials. Naturally, Trump’s administration has denied these accusations.

Trump’s overshare isn’t the only part of this story that’s concerning. The Trump administration has a different story than the President to explain what happened. In a press briefing on Monday, Vox reports that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said that the Post’s report was flat-out false. Meanwhile, Trump tweeted the following early Tuesday morning:

Trump clearly doesn’t deny that he shared information with Russia...but he defended that decision instead of acknowledging the severity of his actions. As the White House scrambles to get its story straight, we’re all left with more questions than answers.

Sharing classified information with Russia is a mishandling of state secrets—which Trump has previously accused his 2016 election rival Hillary Clinton of doing. On the campaign trail, Trump blasted Clinton for mishandling emails on her phone and demanded that she go to prison. For Trump to condemn Clinton’s use of a private server, while not recognizing his own failure to protect sensitive information, is pretty hypocritical.

Trump’s overshare isn’t illegal beacuse the president has the authority to declassify government secrets. But, given the reasons listed above, disclosing this one could have major consequences for diplomacy and the ongoing fight against ISIS. Trump’s been known to go off-script in major meetings before—but this time, he might have said too much.

For more news, follow Halie LeSavage on Twitter.

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