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Trump told Russians that Israel infiltrated online ISIS bomb-making group
Israeli officials were furious.
President Donald Trump, it has been confirmed, disclosed highly sensitive and classified Israeli intelligence with both Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in May when the pair were visiting the White House.
Just one day after abruptly firing his FBI Director James Comey, who had been investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election contrary to the president’s wishes, Trump met with Kremlin diplomats.
Adding to the controversy over the timing of the meeting, Trump caused outrage among the intelligence community when it was alleged he spilled the information to Russian officials who were visiting the White House—although there was no detail on who or what the intel concerned at the time.
A new report by the New York Times, published Monday, confirms that Trump did share intel with the Russians. That intel came from an Israeli source who had hacked into and was observing a Syrian bomb-making cell online. The information gathered revealed plots to hide explosives in electronic devices by an Islamic State-affiliated terrorist group.
Israel then shared this closely guarded information with the U.S. intelligence community and other allies, and it was this intel that informed the Trump administration’s March ban on flying with large electronic devices, such as laptops, as carry-on luggage.
According to the Times, Israeli officials were infuriated when they heard allegations of the president disclosure—which prompted Israel’s intelligence community to completely change how they share classified information.
When the Washington Post first made the allegations, the Trump administration was quick to refute them.
“At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly,” Trump’s national security advisor H.R. McMaster said in defense of the president. “I was in the room. It didn’t happen.”
Then, in an apparent unprovoked confirmation of the fact at a press photo opportunity with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump offered that he had “never mentioned the word or the name Israel” in his meeting with the Russians—at the same time name dropping Israel to the bemusement of Netanyahu.
“They’re all saying I did, so you have another story wrong,” he retorted.
David Gilmour is a reporter who specializes in national politics, internet culture, and technology. He previously covered civil liberties, crime, and politics for Vice.