May 16, 2017

Trump accused of spilling sensitive secrets to Russia

Russian Foreign Ministry Photo via AP

President Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian Foreign Secretary Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in an Oval Office meeting last week, according to a Washington Post report since confirmed by the New York Times, Buzzfeed News and CNN.

What Trump reportedly said: After "boasting about his inside knowledge of the looming threat" he described a specific ISIS plot and the city where it was detected.

The potential consequences: The intelligence-sharing system through which the U.S. learned of the plot is incredibly sensitive, and could now be at risk.

What the administration says: National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster called the Post's report "false" but did not deny its key claims. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a similarly incomplete denial.

Complete coverage: timeline of WH response, the incomplete denials, GOP reaction, Dem reaction, and Trump on classified leaks.

The Post pushes back: Greg Miller, one of the reporters who broke the story, accused the White House of "playing word games" in its denial, and National Editor Scott Wilson tweeted that McMaster "had the opportunity to call the story 'false' before we published it (we quoted him on the record.) He did not."

Key excerpts
  • Trump in the meeting, per an official: "I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day."
  • Another U.S. official to the Post: "Russia could identify our sources or techniques. I don't think that it would be that hard [for Russian spy services] to figure this out."
  • An official to Buzzfeed: "It's far worse than what has already been reported."
  • NYT: "A Middle Eastern ally that closely guards its own secrets provided the information, which was considered so sensitive that American officials did not share it widely within the United States government or pass it on to other allies."
A question of intent
  • A White House adviser tells Politico: "He doesn't really know any boundaries. He doesn't think in those terms. He doesn't sometimes realize the implications of what he's saying. I don't think it was his intention in any way to share any classified information. He wouldn't want to do that."
  • Per Lawfare Blog, "what Trump thought he was doing might well inflect whether we should see this as an act of carelessness, an act of carelessness bordering on treachery, or an act of judgment (even if misjudgment) of the sort we elect presidents to make."
Insights and reactions:
  • Republican Sen. Bob Corker: "The White House has got to do something soon to bring itself under control and in order….Obviously they're in a downward spiral right now and they've got to figure out a way to come to grips with all that's happening…. To compromise a source is something that you just don't do."
  • Democratic Sen. Mark Warner: "A slap in the face to the intel community."
  • NYT's Maggie Haberman: "Trump likes to show off his office toys. This is the intel equivalent of Trump showing ppl Shaq's shoe at Trump Tower."
  • NYT's Glenn Thrush: "Reported fact-chain: 1) Comey requests more $ for Russia probe 2) Trump cans Comey 3) Trump invites Russians to Oval, divulges state secrets."

Looking ahead: Trump departs Friday for his first foreign trip, beginning in the Middle East, and meets with Turkish President Erdogan Tuesday. Both events will put additional strains on a White House that is clearly in damage control mode.

People are paying attention:

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 665,164 — Total deaths: 30,852 — Total recoveries: 140,225.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 124,665 — Total deaths: 2,191 — Total recoveries: 1,095.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump announces new travel advisories for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, but rules out quarantine enforcement. Per the CDC, residents of those states must now "refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days," with the exception of critical infrastructure industry workers.
  4. State updates: Alaska is latest state to issue a stay-at-home order — New York is trying to nearly triple its hospital capacity in less than a month and has moved its presidential primary to June 23. Some Midwestern swing voters who backed Trump's handling of the virus less than two weeks ago are balking at his call for the U.S. to be "opened up" by Easter.
  5. World updates: In Spain, over 1,400 people were confirmed dead between Thursday to Saturday.
  6. 🚀 Space updates: OneWeb filed for bankruptcy amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  7. Hollywood: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have returned to U.S. after being treated for coronavirus.
  8. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Coronavirus updates: Global death toll tops 30,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

The novel coronavirus has now killed more than 30,000 people around the world — with Italy reporting over 10,000 deaths, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: The number of deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. surpassed 2,000 on Saturday. The United States leads the world in confirmed coronavirus infections — more than 124,000 by early Sunday. The number of those recovered from the virus in the U.S. passed the 1,000-mark on Saturday evening.

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The big pig picture: President Trump has called the antiviral drug "promising," but the results of six clinical trials on this investigational medicine are still being conducted, so its effectiveness the treatment of the novel coronavirus has yet to be proved. The World Health Organization is involved in the tests.

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