Members of Congress were swift to react to a Washington Post report on Monday that President Donald Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in a meeting the day after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. The Post reported that the information was a critical piece of intelligence linked to the Islamic State terrorist threat that led to the U.S. banning electronic devices on plans from eight Muslim-majority countries.
Officials told the Post that the information came from a U.S. partner and was so classified that the U.S. intelligence services had yet to share the information with other U.S. allies when Trump revealed the information on May 10.
“This is code-word information,” an official told the Post. Trump revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”
The Post reports that Trump went “off-script” in his meeting with Lavrov, which was not covered by the American press. Only a Russian-state media photographer was allowed in the Oval Office with the three men. When the White House finally released photos of the meeting, they did not include images with Kislyak.
The Post itself didn’t reveal the details of the information Trump gave the Russian diplomats. The paper reported that its sources “warned that revealing them would jeopardize important intelligence capabilities.”
The White House has insisted that the story is false.
“During President Trump’s meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov a broad range of subjects were discussed among which were common efforts and threats regarding counter-terrorism,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement. “During that exchange the nature of specific threats were discussed, but they did not discuss sources, methods or military operations.”
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell also issued statements calling the Post’s reporting false. However, sources for The New York Times and BuzzFeed News also backed up the Post’s reporting.
On Tuesday morning, Trump confirmed that he shared “facts” with Russia, but didn’t say if the information was classified or not. He notably didn’t denounce the reporting as “fake news.”
Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle expressed concern, although the degree varied by party. For example, here’s the statement House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office gave PBS:
We have no way to know what was said, but protecting our nation’s secrets is paramount. The speaker hopes for a full explanation of the facts from the administration.
On the other hand, here is House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s statement:
“If news reports are true, President Trump has compromised a key source of intelligence collection against ISIS and jeopardized the security of the American people. Even if President Trump unwittingly blew a highly classified code-word source to the Russians, that would be dangerous enough. If the President outed a highly classified code-word source intentionally, that would be even more dangerous. Congress must be given a full briefing on the extent of the damage President Trump has done in compromising highly classified code-word intelligence to the Russians.
Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu of California asked, “When will #GOP stand up to the insanity?”
Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, told the Associated Press’ Erica Werner that Trump did have the authority as president to share classified information.
Senator Lindsey Graham, also a Republican, said that it was “troubling,” but would not comment further. His office later retweeted this tweet from a reporter.
Senator Bernie Sanders, a Democrat, wrote that Trump is “failing” at protecting U.S. national security.
Senator Jack Reed, a Democrat from Rhode Island, called Trump’s behavior “deeply disturbing and clearly problematic.”
Senator Bob Corker, a Republican, told NBC News, “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.”
Reps. Elijah Cummings and John Conyers, both Democrats, issued a joint statement, saying that Trump “may have just sunk to a dangerous new low.”
Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee have told the media that they were not briefed on Trump revealing the classified information. They learned about it from the Post story.
Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat, called it “dangerous and reckless” and called of Congressional Republicans to take action.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut Democrat who has been the target of Trump tweets, wrote:
This bombshell report is astonishing & appalling – betraying our allies, endangering safety of sources, & sabotaging our war against ISIS. Trump owes us an explanation for putting lives at risk- he’s betrayed his first responsibility to the safety & security of the United States. Trump may have helped Russia twice – by sharing classified info, and doing incalculable damage to our own alliances.
Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Republican, wrote:
Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat, insists that the House Intelligence Committee be briefed on the information Trump revealed immediately.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer issued the following statement on Twitter:
If the Washington Post report is true, it is very disturbing. Revealing classified information at this level is extremely dangerous. It puts at risk the lives of Americans & those who gather intelligence for our country. The President owes the intelligence community, the American people, and Congress a full explanation.
Senator Susan Collins, a Republican, asked reporters if Washington could have a “crisis-free day.”
Rep. Frank LoBiondo, a Republican, wrote:
Democratic Senator Cory Booker wants to know what it will take for Congressional Republicans to act.
Democratic Senator Tom Udall wrote:
Rep. Frederica Wilson told CBS Miami that she thinks the President “needs psychological help.”