Lawmakers denounced reports that President Trump disclosed "highly classified information" to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador during a meeting at the White House last week as "inexcusable" and "deeply disturbing."
The Washington Post, citing current and former U.S. officials, reported that Trump provided Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak classified intelligence that was so sensitive it had been withheld from allies – and under close hold within the U.S. government as well.
"To compromise a source is something that you just don't do," Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said. "That's why we keep the information that we get from intelligence sources so close...to prevent that from happening."
Sen. Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee said that if the news was true, it was "a slap in the face to the intel community."
If true, this is a slap in the face to the intel community. Risking sources & methods is inexcusable, particularly with the Russians. https://t.co/CRiSC024F7— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) May 15, 2017
"Risking sources & methods is inexcusable, particularly with the Russians," tweeted Warner, whose panel is separately investigating a hacking campaign by the Russians to influence the 2016 election.
The ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, said he was "shocked" by the reports. "This certainly raises questions about whether the president recognizes the serious implications of disclosing such sensitive information to an adversary," he said, calling for Congress to establish an independent commission to investigate the reports.
Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., called the news "deeply disturbing" and New Mexico's Sen. Martin Heinrich, a Democratic member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, sent out a biting remark on Twitter.
Protip: Don’t give the Russians classified information. #Classified101— Martin Heinrich (@MartinHeinrich) May 15, 2017
During the meeting, Trump described details of an Islamic State threat related to using laptop computers on aircraft, the Post reported. Additionally, he revealed the city in the Islamic State's territory where the U.S. partner detected the threat – which could damage a critical source of intelligence on the terror group.
According to the Post, the president appeared to boast of his knowledge of a looming threat. "I get great intel," Trump said. "I have people brief me on great intel every day."
Trump and the United States reportedly did not have permission to share the information from the partner who provided the details. According to an official who spoke to the Post, the president "revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we share with our own allies." Senior White House officials apparently called the CIA and National Security Agency after the meeting to try to "contain the damage."
The White House called the story "false." Dina Powell, deputy national security adviser for strategy who also attended the meeting, said, "The president only discussed the common threats that both countries faced."
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson added: "During President Trump's meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov a broad range of subjects were discussed, among which were common efforts and threats regarding counterterrorism. During that exchanged, the nature of specific threats were discussed, but they did not discuss sources, methods or military operations."
That didn't convince the Democratic National Committee, which said in a statement: "Russia no longer has to spy on us to get information – they just ask President Trump and he spills the beans with highly classified information that jeopardizes our national security and hurts our relationships with allies."
Meanwhile, back on Capitol Hill, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., along with a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., both resurfaced comments from House Speaker Paul Ryan last year lamenting the danger of individuals who are "extremely careless" with classified information.
Ahem... https://t.co/Lp3llv9EaG— Senator Bob Casey (@SenBobCasey) May 15, 2017
Does the President sharing classified info with Russia count, Mr. Speaker? 👇 https://t.co/jRRUf9a3O0— Matt House (@mattwhouse) May 15, 2017
Ryan had sent letters to then-FBI director James Comey and then-national intelligence director James Clapper after the FBI closed its investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server when she was secretary of State. He requested that Comey release all unclassified findings in the Clinton investigation and that Clapper refrain from classified briefings with Clinton during the campaign, for fear information could be exposed.
Some lawmakers had expressed concern about the fact that Russian media was allowed into the meeting and took pictures of Trump, Lavrov, and Kislyak.
Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the president's national security adviser, was spotted by reporters near Spicer's office after the story broke. He joked, "This is the last place in the world I want to be...I'm leaving."
Contributing: Heidi Przybyla