After President Donald Trump spoke to Russian officials in an Oval Office meeting in May of 2017, a covert asset in Russia’s government, working with the CIA, required extraction from that country in order to guarantee their safety.
As CNN reported on Monday, the covert spy within the Kremlin was considered one of the highest-level sources for U.S. intelligence within Russia’s government. Their extraction came about after concerns were raised regarding their safety, following Trump’s disclosure of previously classified information to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
The details that Trump shared with those individuals, and subsequent reporting from media after those details were discussed, were enough for the CIA to consider the asset in a compromised, and potentially dangerous, situation.
The classified information was originally produced by Israeli intelligence, and shared with the United States. In May of 2017, Trump shared that intel with Lavrov and Kislyak.
The report was based on statements from multiple Trump administration sources, CNN said. A spokesperson for Mike Pompeo would not comment on the matter to CNN, but White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham criticized the network for its report on Monday.
“CNN’s reporting is not only incorrect, it has the potential to put lives in danger,” she said.
Trump faced immense criticism at the time for sharing intelligence with Russian actors, though up until now it wasn’t clear what, if any, consequential effects the sharing of such information would have. Ultimately, the action of sharing such intelligence isn’t a criminal behavior, although it does make the work of the U.S. intelligence community much more difficult.
“The president is essentially the ultimate arbiter of what is classified and what is not,” Washington Post reporter Matt Zapotosky explained in 2017. “While the heads of particular agencies also have original classification authority — the power to deem material classified or not classified — their authority is limited to their departments and bound by their departments’ particular rules.”
“The president, as the head of the executive branch, knows no such restrictions,” Zapotosky added.
In other words, the president has the right to de-classify things as he sees fit — including sharing the information with individuals from a nation the intelligence community deems as a threat.
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Chris Walker is a freelance writer based out of Madison, Wisconsin. A millennial with more than a decade of journalism experience, Chris aims to provide readers with the latest and most accurate news of national importance. Chris likes to spend his free time doing activities in his community with his family.