Here we have a scoop hitting the mainstream media headlines to eclipse China’s One Belt, One Road summit, the Macron’s inauguration, Syria, never ending North Korea’s missile launches and the Turkish President Erdogan’s visit to Washington. US President Donald Trump is at the centre of a storm. The saga of the alleged Russian connection to Trump’s campaign is once again dominating the news.
This time hue and cry was raised over President Trump allegedly revealing top secret/codeword information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting, a day after FBI chief James Comey was fired. The FBI director’s sudden dismissal unleashed reprimands from across the political spectrum, and the report once again quickly drew sharp criticism of the president. Current and former US officials say the divulgence jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State (IS) group.
It started with The Washington Post reporting on May 15 that President Trump revealed highly classified information about an Islamic State plot to senior Russian officials during the Oval Office meeting on May 10. The president reportedly went off-script and began describing details about an IS threat related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft.
The story went viral. It says the information was so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the government. It was provided by a US partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement. The partner did not give permission to share the information not to jeopardize a valuable source.
If committed, such an act could jeopardize a whole range of relationships. The story was immediately spread around with comments by other US media outlets. The New York Times and BuzzFeed News published similar reports also citing unverifiable sources, unnamed current and former US officials later in the day.
The news came as the House of Representatives returned to session after a break. Republicans were at sea asking for further details. Congressional Democrats and some Republicans condemned the reported disclosures. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, a Republican, called the reports «worrisome» and «troubling,» and told reporters that the Trump White House «has got to do something soon to bring itself under control and order». Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that, if the allegations are true, that would be a «slap in the face» to the US intelligence community. The second most senior Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin of Illinois, called the reported disclosures «dangerous» and «reckless».
A number of ranking officials, including National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, State Secretary Rex Tillerson and Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategy Dina Powell, denied the reports and emphasized that Trump had not discussed specific intelligence sources and methods. Neither of the officials addressed directly the allegation that classified information was revealed, sparking suspicions that aides were «playing word games».
In his public response on May 16 President Donald Trump insisted he had the right to share information with Russia related to terrorism and other issues. The president’s tweets notably lack any mention of whether the information he shared was classified.
Some consequences are easily predictable. The story will spur anti-Trump hysteria in media and Congress. For instance, CNN cited «a former senior intelligence official» saying «Never before have I witnessed a senior government official so carelessly threaten an intelligence-sharing relationship». Such media attacks will multiply. It’s already happening.
The revelations could further damage Trump's already fraught relationship with US intelligence agencies. A lot of people will take advantage of the situation to stymie the emerging normalization of the relationship between the US and Russia.
True or not, the following scandal is sure to shadow the president as he starts his first overseas voyage after the election. The trip includes Israel, Saudi Arabia, Vatican and meetings with European partners at a NATO summit in Brussels and the Group of 7 meeting in Sicily. Some of the leaders Trump will meet come from countries the United States has intelligence-sharing agreements with.
Whatever happened in the Oval Office, the US president has a right to declassify information. So, no laws or rules were broken even if the bombshell story dismissed by the Russian foreign ministry were true. Looks like it isn’t. Why not? Because of the carefully chosen timing and the fact that the development of the events had been predicted and expected.
No US mainstream media outlet remembered the warning given by the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova who had foreseen the scenario. Prior to the Minister Lavrov’s visit to Washington, she warned that American media were preparing an attack against the president. «Guys, have you been reading American newspapers again?» she wrote on her Facebook page. «You shouldn't read them. You can put them to various uses, but you shouldn't read them. Lately it's become not only harmful, but dangerous too», she went on, adding that on May 11 she warned that American media were planning to publish a «scoop» on the Trump-Lavrov meeting. She hit the nail right on the head. Immediately after the event brouhaha was stirred up over the presence of Russian photographers in the Oval Office during the Trump-Lavrov talks.
So, the «secrets divulged’ fake story is nothing else but a well-planned attack launched by a large segment of US media which are used as a tool to stymie any efforts to normalize the relations between the US and Russia. Those who lost the presidential election just cannot reconcile with the defeat. This and other stories denigrating Russia and painting it as America’s foe are parts of a well-orchestrated hate campaign. The outlets don’t pretend to be independent anymore; they have become actors with roles to play, missions to accomplish and goals to be reached.
None of the stories going viral has relation to the facts. They are nothing but unsupportable conspiracy theories based on innuendo.
The attack is launched to substantiate the calls for appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the Trump’s ties with Russia and scuttle any improvement of the relationship. Then congressional committees and independent commissions and what else - they will all add to the efforts to hinder the process of normalization just started. As a result, the hopes for progress in arms control and non-proliferation will be dashed. There will be no joint fight against the Islamic State and no deal on Syria, no talks on the rising tensions in Europe between Russia and NATO, no cooperation on cyber security and a lot of other things where reaching understanding with Moscow would meet US interests.
Deja-vu all over again. It’s easy to find examples in the American history. The anti-Russia hysteria as part of the anti-Trump campaign is a sure way back to the days of the Second Red Scare, the Hollywood blacklist, the activities of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and Hoover-led FBI. One thing leads to another. The result will be increased spying on US citizens and repressions for political views. To avoid such development of events, everything media say should be taken with a grain of salt, especially when unnamed sources are cited and stories without any proof or facts are told.