National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, who participated in the meeting, pushed back against the story. “At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed, and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly,” he said. But Lawfare persuasively argues that his carefully worded denial is not actually inconsistent with the substance of the Washington Post story.
“This story is false. The president only discussed the common threats that both countries faced,” Dina Powell, a deputy national security adviser, said in a statement.
But unnamed officials—perhaps the same ones—told the same story to reporters at The New York Times and BuzzFeed. The latter news organization added these details to its write-up:
Two US officials who were briefed on Trump’s disclosures last week confirmed to BuzzFeed News the veracity of the Washington Post report, with one noting that “it’s far worse than what has already been reported.”
At least one member of the Senate Intelligence Committee was also briefed on Trump’s disclosures, an intelligence committee staffer said. Sen. Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the committee, was not briefed, according to his office. Other members of the committee also said they did not receive a briefing.
Reuters confirmed the story, too. Assuming that the unnamed Washington Post, New York Times, BuzzFeed, or Reuters sources are correct, the episode vindicates various Trump critics.
USA Today’s editorial board argued candidate Trump was “unfit for the presidency,” observing that he “has demonstrated repeatedly that he lacks the temperament, knowledge, steadiness and honesty that America needs from its presidents.” A flawed temperament, incomplete knowledge, and unsteadiness all contributed to his loose lips with the Russians. As USA Today put it back then, “He speaks recklessly.”
A joint statement signed by numerous Republican foreign-policy experts declared, “Mr. Trump’s own statements lead us to conclude that as president, he would use the authority of his office to act in ways that make America less safe, and which would diminish our standing in the world.” And so it has transpired: he used his authority to handle classified information as he sees fit in a way that made America less safe.
The conservative economist Thomas Sowell warned, “A shoot-from-the-hip, belligerent show-off is the last thing we need or can afford.” Now Trump’s shoot-from-the-hip style and desire to show off U.S. intelligence seems to have done harm.
Ross Douthat cautioned, “I think that reluctant Trump supporters are overestimating the systemic durability of the American-led order, and underestimating the extent to which a basic level of presidential competence and self-control is itself a matter of life and death—for Americans, and for human beings the world over.