Links between Trump associates and Russian officials

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Overview[edit source]

There has been intensive media scrutiny of Trump’s relationship to Russia.[8][9] During the campaign, Trump repeatedly praised Russian president Vladimir Putin as a strong leader, leading to jokes about their “bromance“.[10][11] Several of Trump’s close advisers, including former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and former campaign manager Paul Manafort, have been connected to Russian or Ukrainian officials.[12][13] Russian agents were overheard during the campaign saying they could use Manafort and Flynn to influence Trump.[14] Members of Trump’s campaign and later his White House staff, particularly Flynn and Jared Kushner, were in contact with Russian government officials both before and after the November election,[15] including some contacts which they initially did not disclose.[16] As of May 2017, the FBI is investigating several alleged links between Trump associates and representatives of the Russian government.[17] British and Dutch intelligence services have given information to their United States counterparts about meetings in European cities between Russian officials, associates of Putin, and associates of then-President-elect Trump. American intelligence agencies also intercepted communications of Russian officials, some of them within the Kremlin, discussing contacts with Trump associates.[18]

The New York Times reported that multiple Trump associates, including Manafort and other members of his campaign, had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials during 2016, although officials said that so far, they do not have evidence that Trump’s campaign had co-operated with the Russians to influence the election. Manafort said he did not knowingly meet any Russian intelligence officials.[19] Flynn and now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions subsequently confirmed the contacts after having initially denied them.[18] Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN that the “electoral process” was not discussed during these meetings, and that the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak had also met with “people working in think tanks advising Hillary or advising people working for Hillary” during the campaign.[20]

Chest height portrait of man in his sixties wearing a suit and tie

Russian diplomat Sergey Kislyak met with a number of U.S. officials.

In particular, Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak has met with several Trump campaign members, transition team members, and administration nominees. Involved people dismissed those meetings as routine conversations in preparation for assuming the presidency. Trump’s team has issued at least twenty denials concerning communications between his campaign and Russian officials;[21] several of these denials turned out to be false.[22] The Trump administration reportedly asked the FBI for help in countering news reports about alleged contacts with Russia.[23]

Former ambassadors Michael McFaul and John Beyrle have said they are “extremely troubled” by the evidence of Russian interference in the US election, and both support an independent investigation into the matter, but have dismissed as “preposterous” the allegations that Kislyak participated in it, particularly through his meetings with the Trump campaign: “Kislyak’s job is to meet with government officials and campaign people,” McFaul stated. “People should meet with the Russian ambassador and it’s wrong to criminalize that or discourage it.”[24]

According to three officials who reviewed a letter sent to The Washington Post in December 2016, a meeting took place in Trump Tower on December 1 or 2 between Jared Kushner, Kislyak, and Flynn. In the meeting, Kushner is alleged to have requested that a direct Russian-encrypted communications channel be set up to allow secret communication with Russia which would circumvent safeguards in place by the United States intelligence community. The goal would be to allow Flynn to speak directly to Russian military officials about Syria and other issues. No such communications channel was actually set up, according to the sources.[25] After the meeting, Kislyak sent a report of the meeting to the Kremlin, using what he thought were secure channels but in fact were intercepted by American intelligence. Kislyak was reportedly taken aback by the request and expressed concern of the security implications that would be at stake in having an American use secure communications between the Kremlin and diplomatic outposts.[26][27]

Former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell stated in March 2017 that he had seen no evidence of collusion between Trump and the Kremlin. “On the question of the Trump campaign conspiring with the Russians here, there is smoke, but there is no fire, at all,” Morell said.[1] In a March 2017 interview, James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence under President Obama, said that at the time of the intelligence community’s report on the issue in January 2017, there was no evidence of any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives.[2]

Trump administration members[edit source]

Michael Flynn[edit source]

In December 2015, Flynn, who sat next to Vladimir Putin during the dinner, and Jill Stein, attended RT’s 10th anniversary gala.[28][29]

National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was forced to resign on February 13, 2017, after it was revealed that on December 29, 2016, the day that Obama announced sanctions against Russia, Flynn had discussed the sanctions with Russian ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak. Flynn had earlier acknowledged speaking to Kislyak but denied discussing the sanctions.[30][31]

On March 2, 2017, The New York Times reported that Kislyak met with Flynn and Jared Kushner in December 2016 to establish a line of communication with the Trump administration.[32] In May 2017 it was further reported that at that December meeting, Kushner and Flynn asked the Russians to set up a direct, encrypted communications channel with Moscow, so that Flynn could speak directly to Russian military officials about Syria and other issues without the knowledge of American intelligence agencies. Kislyak was hesitant to allow Americans to have access to Russia’s secure communications network, and no such channel was actually set up.[33][27]

In December 2015 Flynn was paid $45,000 by Russia Today, a Kremlin-supported television channel, for delivering a talk in Moscow, and Russia provided him a 3-day, all-expenses-paid trip.[34] As a retired military intelligence officer, Flynn was required to obtain prior permission from the Defense Department and the State Department before receiving any money from foreign governments; Flynn apparently did not seek that approval before the RT speech.[35] Two months later, in February 2016 when he was applying for a renewal of his security clearance, he stated that he had received no income from foreign companies and had only “insubstantial contact” with foreign nationals.[36] Glenn A. Fine, the acting Defense Department Inspector General, has confirmed he is investigating Flynn.[34]

CNN reported in May 19, 2017 that in a phone call during the presidential campaign intercepted by American intelligence, Russian officials claimed they had cultivated such a strong relationship with Flynn that they believed they could use him to influence Donald Trump and his team.[37]

On May 31, 2017, the House Intelligence Committee served Flynn with subpoenas for testimony, and production of personal documents and business records.[38][39]

Jared Kushner[edit source]

In April 2017, it was reported that Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, on his application for top secret security clearance, failed to disclose numerous meetings with foreign officials, including Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak as well as Sergey Gorkov, the head of the Russian state-owned bank Vnesheconombank. Kushner’s lawyers called the omissions “an error”. The Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election plans to question Kushner in connection with the meetings he had with these individuals.[40]

According to U.S. officials, investigators believe that Kushner has important information regarding the FBI investigation, but he is not a subject of investigation, unlike former Trump aides Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort.[41] In mid-December 2016, when Trump “was openly feuding with American intelligence agencies”, Kushner met for thirty minutes with Russian banker, Sergey N. Gorkov, “whose financial institution was deeply intertwined with Russian intelligence” and is “under sanction by the United States”. By late May 2017, the meeting had “come under increasing scrutiny” by the Senate Intelligence Committee as “current and former American officials” said that “it may have been part of an effort by Mr. Kushner to establish a direct line to Mr. Putin outside established diplomatic channels”.[26][42]

Jeff Sessions[edit source]

In March 2017, it was revealed that while still a U.S. Senator, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, an early and prominent supporter of Trump’s campaign, spoke twice with Russian ambassador Kislyak before the election – once in July 2016 and once in September 2016. At his January 10 confirmation hearing to become Attorney General, he stated that he was not aware of any contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, adding that he “did not have communications with the Russians”. On March 1, 2017, he said that his answer had not been misleading, stating that he “never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign”.[43] On March 2, 2017, after meeting with senior career officials at the Justice Department, Sessions announced that he would recuse himself from any investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.[44] In such investigations, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has served as the Acting Attorney General.

Trump campaign members[edit source]

Paul Manafort[edit source]

On February, 14, 2017, The New York Times reported that Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials during 2016. Manafort said he did not knowingly meet any Russian intelligence officials.[19] Intercepted communications during the campaign show that Russian officials believed they could use Manafort to influence Trump.[45] On June 2, 2017, special counsel Robert Mueller assumed the criminal probe into Manafort,[46] which predates the 2016 election and the counterintelligence probe that in July 2016 began investigating possible collusion between Moscow and associates of Trump. Manafort was forced to resign as Trump campaign chairman in August 2016 amid questions over his business dealings in Ukraine years earlier.[46]

Carter Page[edit source]

During an interview with The Washington Post in March 2016, Trump identified Carter Page, who had previously been an investment banker in Moscow, as a foreign policy adviser to his campaign.[47] Page became a foreign policy advisor to Trump in the summer of 2016. During the investigation into the Russian interference in the 2016 elections, Page’s past contacts with Russians came to public attention.[48] In 2013 Page met with Viktor Podobnyy, then a junior attaché at the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, at an energy conference, and provided him with documents on the U.S. energy industry.[49] Page later said that he provided only “basic immaterial information and publicly available research documents” to Podobnyy.[48] Podobnyy was later one of a group of three Russian men charged by the U.S. authorities for participation in a Russian spy ring; Podobnyy and one of the other men was protected by diplomatic immunity from prosecution; a third man, who was spying for the Russia under non-diplomatic cover, pleaded guilty to conspiring to act as an unregistered foreign agent and was sentenced to prison.[48] The men had attempted to recruit Page to work for the Russian SVR. The FBI interviewed Page in 2013 “as part of an investigation into the spy ring, but decided that he had not known the man was a spy”, and never accused Page of wrongdoing.[48]

Page was dropped from the team after reports that he was under investigation by federal authorities over his Russian connections.[50] The FBI and the Justice Department obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) warrant to monitor Page’s communications during the summer of 2016, after they made the case that there was probable cause to think Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power (Russia). Page told The Washington Post that he considered that to be “unjustified, politically motivated government surveillance”. The 90-day warrant was renewed at least once.[47]

In February 2017, Carter Page stated that he had “no meetings” with Russian officials during 2016 but two days later said that he “did not deny” meeting with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Page’s reversal occurred after the news reports that revealed that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had likewise met with Kislyak. In March 2017, Page was called on by the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating links between the Trump campaign and Russian government.[51][52] On March 9, 2017, Hope Hicks, a Trump spokesperson, distanced the campaign from Page, stating that Page was an “‘informal foreign policy adviser'” who did “‘not speak for Mr. Trump or the campaign.'”[53]

Roger Stone[edit source]

Roger J. Stone Jr., a former adviser to Donald Trump and self-proclaimed political “dirty trickster”, admitted in March 2017 that during August 2016, he had been in contact with Guccifer 2.0, a hacker persona believed to be a front for Russian intelligence operations who has publicly claimed responsibility for at least one hack of the DNC.[54] Stone is suspected of having inside knowledge of these hacks, accurately predicting that it would soon be John Podesta‘s “time in the barrel” on Twitter, shortly prior to the Wikileaks release of the Podesta emails, a hacking incident now broadly understood to have been a significant contributing factor to Trump‘s 2016 election victory against then-expected winner Hillary Clinton.[55] Additionally, Stone has also reportedly stated privately to some Republican colleagues that he has “actually communicated with Julian Assange” on at least one occasion, although Stone and his two Attorneys have since denied this.[56]

Stone is presently under FBI investigation over possible criminal collusion between key figures in the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.[57][25]

Trump business partners[edit source]

Michael Cohen[edit source]

On May 30, 2017, as the inquiries into alleged Russian meddling in the US election expanded, both the House and Senate congressional panels asked President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer who is one of Trump’s closest confidants, Michael Cohen,[58] to “provide information and testimony” about any communications he had with people connected to the Kremlin.[59][58]

On May 31, 2017, the House Intelligence Committee served Cohen with subpoenas for testimony, and production of personal documents and business records.[60][61]

Trump supporters[edit source]

Erik Prince[edit source]

On April 3, 2017, The Washington Post reported that around January 11, nine days before Donald Trump’s inauguration, Erik Prince, the founder of the Blackwater security company, secretly met with an unidentified Russian, who is close to Vladimir Putin, in the Seychelles. The Trump administration said that it was “not aware of any meetings” and said that Prince was not involved in the Trump campaign. According to U.S., European, and Arab officials, the meeting was arranged by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the purpose apparently was to establish a back-channel link between Trump and Putin. The UAE and Trump’s associates reportedly tried to convince Russia to limit its support to Iran, including in Syria. He appears to have close ties to Trump’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon[citation needed]. The Seychelles meeting took place after previous meetings in New York between Trump’s associates and officials from Russia and the Emirates, when any official contacts between Trump administration and Russian agents were coming under close scrutiny from the press and the U.S. intelligence community. U.S. officials said that the FBI is investigating the Seychelles meeting. The FBI, however, refused to comment.[62]

Two intelligence officials confirmed to NBC News that the Seychelles meeting took place. One of them corroborated The Washington Posts account, but said that it is not clear whether the initiative to arrange a meeting came from the UAE or Trump’s associates and that no Trump transition people were directly involved. A second official said that the meeting was about “Middle East policy, to cover Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Iran”, not Russia.[63]

Prince’s spokesperson said, “Erik had no role on the transition team, this is a complete fabrication. The meeting had nothing to do with President Trump. Why is the so called under resourced intelligence community, messing around with surveillance of American citizens when they should be hunting terrorists?”. A senior Trump administration official called the story of a Trump-Putin back-channel “ridiculous.”[64]

Nigel Farage[edit source]

On June 1, 2017, The Guardian reported that Nigel Farage, former leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party and one the first foreign political figures to meet Trump following the election, was a person of interest in the FBI investigation, which Farage denied. Farage has previously met the Russian ambassador to the United KingdomAlexander Yakovenko, Roger Stone and Julian Assange, and The Guardians source was quoted saying “If you triangulate Russia, WikiLeaks, Assange and Trump associates the person who comes up with the most hits is Nigel Farage”.[65]

Steele dossier[edit source]

On October 31, 2016, a week before the election, David Corn of Mother Jones magazine, reported that an unnamed former intelligence officer had produced a report (later referred to as a dossier) based on Russian sources and had turned it over to the FBI.[66] The officer, who was familiar to the FBI and was known for the quality of his past work, was later identified as Christopher Steele. The FBI found Steele and his information credible enough that it considered paying Steele to continue collecting information but the release of the document to the public stopped discussions between Steele and the FBI.[67] Corn said the main points in the unverified report were that Moscow had tried to cultivate Donald Trump for years; that it possessed compromising or potentially embarrassing material about him that could possibly be used to blackmail him; and that there had been a flow of information between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin,[68] which involved multiple in-person meetings between Russian government officials and individuals working for Trump.[69][70] The dossier also claimed that the Kremlin’s goal had been to “encourage splits and divisions in the Western alliance”.[66]

On January 10, 2017, CNN reported that classified documents presented to Obama and Trump the previous week included allegations that Russian operatives possess “compromising personal and financial information” about Trump. CNN stated that it would not publish specific details on the memos because they had not yet “independently corroborated the specific allegations”.[71] Following CNN’s report, BuzzFeed then published a 35-page dossier that it said was the basis of the briefing.[72] It included unverified claims that Russian operatives had worked with the Trump campaign to help him get elected. It also alleged that Russia had collected “embarrassing material” involving Trump that could be used to blackmail him.[73] Trump denounced the unverified claims as false, saying that it was “disgraceful” for U.S. intelligence agencies to report them.[74][75]

On March 30, 2017, Paul Wood of BBC News revealed that the FBI was using the dossier as a roadmap for its investigation.[76] On April 18, 2017, CNN reported that corroborated information from the dossier had been used as part of the basis for getting the FISA warrant to monitor former Trump foreign policy advisor Carter Page during the summer of 2016

Links between Trump associates and Russian officials are the subject of investigations by the FBI and a number of congressional committees as part of their investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections. Many of Donald Trump‘s campaign members, business partners and administration nominees have been subjected to intense scrutiny following intelligence reports on such Russian interference. The investigations have revealed that many of them have various types of links to Russian officials, business people, banks, and Russian intelligence agencies. Several investigations are underway to determine whether Trump or any of his associates have had improper dealings during their contacts with Russian officials, but no firm evidence of collusion has yet emerged.[1][2][3]Investigations were started by the FBI,[4] the Senate Intelligence Committee[5] and the House Intelligence Committee.[6] In May 2017, former FBI Director Robert Mueller was appointed as Special Counsel in the FBI’s investigation.[7]

Donald Trump’s disclosure of classified information to Russia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
President Donald Trump shakes hands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov in the Oval Office, May 10, 2017

President Trump meets with Lavrov (pictured) and Kislyak on May 10, 2017. A photographer from Russian News Agency TASS was present, but no other press.[1]

President Donald Trump discussed highly classified intelligence during a May 10, 2017, Oval Office meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, providing sufficient details that could be used by the Russians to deduce the source of the information and the manner in which it was collected, according to current and former government officials.[2][3][4][5][6] The disclosure was first reported in The Washington Post on May 15, 2017, and was later described as “shocking” and “horrifying” by some commentators and officials.[7] White House staff initially denied the report, but the following day Trump defended the disclosure, stating that he has the “absolute right” to “share” intelligence with Russia.[8]

During the same meeting, Trump told Russian officials that firing the FBI director James Comey, “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job… I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”[9]

It was later reported that Israel was the source of the intelligence.[10] Israel did not confirm or deny the report but released a statement stating full confidence in the intelligence sharing relationships with the United States.[11] U.S. intelligence officials had previously warned Israel not to share sensitive information with President Trump, out of fear that it could be leaked to Russia, and then from Russia to Iran.[12] Several Israeli intelligence officials confirmed privately that Trump’s disclosure of the intel to Russia “confirmed their worst fears” about Trump, that the disclosure jeopardizes Israel’s “unique” intelligence-sharing arrangement with United States and that Israeli officials were “boiling mad”.[13][12]

According to current and former U.S. officials interviewed by ABC News, Trump’s disclosure endangered the life of a spy placed by Israel in ISIL-held territory in Syria.[14] The classified information Trump shared came from a source described as the most valuable of any current sources on any current external plotting, according to the Wall Street Journal.[15]

It was also reported that Trump disclosed other classified information, namely the location of nuclear submarines, to Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte in a phone call on April 29.[16] On May 24, Britain strongly objected to the United States’ leaking information, including the identity of the attacker in the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing, while their investigations were still underway, jeopardizing the investigation.[17][18] Leaks of sensitive information by the U.S. has led to the review of intelligence sharing arrangements by key allies.[19]

Disclosures and reporting[edit source]

On May 15, 2017, The Washington Post, citing anonymous sources, reported that the intelligence was about an Islamic State plot to stealthily use laptops as weapons that can then explode in Western countries, and that a Middle Eastern ally provided the intelligence, which was codeword-classified, meaning that its distribution was restricted only to those who were explicitly cleared to read it, and was not intended to be shared beyond the United States and certain allies.[2][3] The incident was later reported by The New York Times,[2] Buzzfeed,[20] and Reuters.[4] The officials talking to BuzzFeed said, “it’s far worse than what has already been reported.”[20]

Immediately after Trump’s disclosure, “which one of the officials described as spontaneous”,[4] “senior White House officials appeared to recognize quickly that Trump had overstepped and moved to contain the potential fallout.”[3] Immediately after the meeting,[4] Thomas P. Bossert, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, telephoned the directors of the CIA and the NSA to inform them what had occurred.[3]

The incident was widely seen as a pivot away from traditional American allies, and towards closer relations with Russia,[21][22] and raised questions on whether the United States would remain in Five Eyes (an intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States) and its relationship to the FBI investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections.[23]

Several commentators stated that by releasing highly classified information to Russia, Trump jeopardized American and allied intelligence sources, breached the trust relationship with America’s foreign partners, threatened the long term national security of the country and violated his oath of office through “gross negligence”. All of these actions are possible legal grounds towards efforts to impeach Donald Trump.[24][25][26] Aides privately defended the President, stating that he did not have sufficient grasp upon what his job entails to purposely leak information.[27]

According to conservative commentator Erick Erickson, multiple sources have stated that the leaks were far worse than the current reports, and the leaker is a strong supporter of President Trump who believed it was necessary to publicly disclose the story because of Trump’s inability to accept criticism.[28]

White House response[edit source]

White House staff initially denied the veracity of the report during the evening of May 15, but Trump appeared to confirm during the early morning of May 16 the allegations that he shared classified intelligence, saying that Russia is an important ally of the United States—including on terrorism.

In a press briefing on the same day, National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster strongly denied The Washington Post report, saying, “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. Two other senior officials who were present, including the secretary of state, remember the meeting the same way and have said so. And their on-the-record accounts should outweigh those of anonymous sources.” He concluded by saying, “I was in the room, it didn’t happen.”[29] McMaster said that “it was wholly appropriate to share” the information because of a similar ISIL plot two years earlier.[14]

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated that “common efforts and threats regarding counter-terrorism” were discussed in the meeting with Lavrov, but not “sources, methods or military operations”.[30] Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy Dina Habib Powell flatly rejected the Post article, saying: “This story is false. The president only discussed the common threats that both countries faced.”[31]

On May 16, Trump implicitly confirmed a disclosure in a tweet, claiming that, “As President I wanted to share with Russia … which I have the absolute right to do …”[8]

Origin of the intelligence[edit source]

The May 15 The Washington Post report[3] only reported that the intelligence came from an unnamed Middle Eastern ally.[2] On May 16, The New York Times named the relevant ally and source of the intelligence as Israel, saying that as a consequence, Trump’s boasts to the Russian envoys could damage America’s relationship with Israel and endanger Israel’s security if Russia passes the intelligence on to Russia’s ally, and Israel’s main threat in the Middle East, namely Iran.[10] The intelligence was so sensitive that it hadn’t even been shared among key U.S. allies.[32]

Israeli intelligence officials were reportedly horrified by the disclosure.[33] In public comments, Israeli officials including intelligence minister Yisrael Katz, Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer, and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the intelligence services of the two countries would continue to share information, with Dermer saying “Israel has full confidence in our intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States.” However, speaking privately, unnamed Israeli sources said they might need to reassess what intelligence they share with the U.S.[34] Israeli officials stated that it is Israel’s “worst fears confirmed” about Donald Trump. The officials also stated that Israeli intelligence officers were “boiling mad and demanding answers” on its current intelligence-sharing agreement with the US.[35]

On May 22, while visiting Israel, Trump appeared to confirm both the disclosures and the identity of Israel as the source, telling the press “Folks, folks, just so you understand, just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name Israel during that conversation.”[36] It had been widely reported before May 22 that Israel was the source.[37][38]

United States Congress reaction[edit source]

U.S. House[edit source]

Speaker of the House Republican Paul Ryan said through a spokesman that he “hopes for a full explanation of the facts from the administration”.[2]

U.S. Senate[edit source]

Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that the allegations were “very, very troubling” if true.[4] Senator John McCain called the report “deeply disturbing” and said that “Reports that this information was provided by a U.S. ally and shared without its knowledge sends a troubling signal to America’s allies and partners around the world and may impair their willingness to share intelligence with us in the future.”[39] McCain stated: “Regrettably, the time President Trump spent sharing sensitive information with the Russians was time he did not spend focusing on Russia’s aggressive behavior, including its interference in American and European elections, its illegal invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, its other destabilizing activities across Europe, and the slaughter of innocent civilians and targeting of hospitals in Syria.”[39]

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer stated “The president owes the intelligence community, the American people and Congress a full explanation”[2] and Senator Dick Durbin, the Senate Democratic Whip, said that Trump’s conduct was “dangerous” and “reckless”.[4] Senator Jack Reed, the ranking Democratic member of the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services, stated that “President Trump’s recklessness with sensitive information is deeply disturbing and clearly problematic.”[2] The Democratic National Committee issued a statement reading: “If Trump weren’t president, his dangerous disclosure to Russia could end with him in handcuffs.”[40]

Foreign reactions[edit source]

Foreign reaction was overwhelmingly negative. A top European intelligence official stated that sharing of intelligence with the United States would cease if the country confirms that Trump did indeed share classified information with Russia, because sharing intel with Americans while Trump is president could put their sources at risk.[41]

Germany[edit source]

Burkhard Lischka, a member of the German Bundestag‘s intelligence oversight committee, said that if Trump “passes this information to other governments at will, then Trump becomes a security risk for the entire western world”.[42]

Russia[edit source]

The Russian Foreign Ministry advised its followers to avoid reading U.S. newspapers. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zakharova said: “You can put them to various uses, but you shouldn’t read them. Lately it’s become not only harmful, but dangerous too.”[43] On May 17, 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to provide the record of the Oval Office meeting to the United States Congress.[44]

Academic reactions[edit source]

Several professors of law, political science and international relations, as well as intelligence experts, were alarmed by Trump’s disclosure.

Intelligence expert Amy Zegart of Stanford University noted that Trump revealed code word intelligence, which is the highest layer of classification, even higher than the “top secret” classification. Such information, if revealed could reasonably be expected to cause “exceptionally grave damage” to the national security of the United States.[45] She wrote, “so just how bad is the damage? On a scale of 1 to 10—and I’m just ball parking here—it’s about a billion.”[45]

Counterterrorism expert Daniel Byman of Georgetown University said that disclosures such as Trump’s could jeopardize intelligence sharing relationships, which “perhaps more than any other policy instrument … play a vital role in counterterrorism against global terrorist groups like the Islamic State and Al Qaeda.”[46] The effects could be “disastrous”.[46]

Professor Jack Goldsmith and other contributors to the Lawfare Blog argued that Trump’s leaking of classified information could be a violation of the President’s oath of office: “There’s thus no reason why Congress couldn’t consider a grotesque violation of the President’s oath as a standalone basis for impeachment—a high crime and misdemeanor in and of itself. This is particularly plausible in a case like this, where the oath violation involves giving sensitive information to an adversary foreign power. That’s getting relatively close to the “treason” language in the impeachment clauses; it’s pretty easy to imagine a hybrid impeachment article alleging a violation of the oath in service of a hostile foreign power. So legally speaking, the matter could be very grave for Trump even though there is no criminal exposure.”[24] While Goldsmith argued Trump “did not violate any criminal law concerning the disclosure of classified information” because of the president’s broad authority to declassify information,[24] another legal scholar, Professor Stephen Vladeck, wrote that the president’s “constitutional power over national security information” is not unfettered and that Trump’s disclosures “may actually have been illegal under federal law.”[47]

Harvard Law emeritus professor Alan Dershowitz called the incident “the most serious charge ever made against a sitting president”[48] and said that it was “devastating”, with “very serious political, diplomatic, and international implications”.