This file handout photo taken on May 10, 2017 made available by the Russian Foreign Ministry shows shows US President Donald J. Trump (C) speaking with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) and Russian Ambassador to the US, Sergei Kislyak during a meeting at the White House in Washington, D.C.  President Donald Trump revealed highly classified information to Russia's foreign minister and ambassador to the United States during an Oval Office meeting last week, the Washington Post reported Monday, May 15, 2017.
AFP PHOTO / RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY

Why Trump would share highly classified secrets with the Russians

Updated
Three months ago today, the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. intelligence officials “have withheld sensitive intelligence from President Donald Trump because they are concerned it could be leaked or compromised.” This was about competence, not politics: U.S. intelligence had serious concerns about the American president’s “trustworthiness” and “discretion.”

The Rachel Maddow Show, 5/15/17, 9:00 PM ET

WaPo: Trump shares highly classified info with Russian officials

Greg Jaffe, one of the Washington Post reporters who broke the news of Donald Trump sharing highly classified information with Russian officials while they visited the Oval Office, talks with Rachel Maddow about how the story came together.
As you may have heard, the Washington Post published a stunning report late yesterday that suggests those fears were well grounded.
President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.

The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.
It’s difficult to overstate just how serious developments like these are. The Wall Street Journal – one of several major U.S. outlets to confirm the accuracy of the story – added, “According to one U.S. official, the information shared was highly sensitive and difficult to acquire and was considered extraordinarily valuable.”

And yet, the president apparently gave it away to an adversary in exchange for nothing. In the process, Trump compromised national security, mishandled extremely sensitive information, infuriated an ally, and sent a signal to the world that the United States, at least in the Trump era, cannot be trusted to safeguard secrets.

Trump’s meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak – a Oval Office gathering that took place at Vladimir Putin’s request – was already controversial. Evidently, we didn’t know the half of it.

What we need to know now, however, is why the president of the United States would put lives at risk by recklessly ignoring his responsibilities.

Broadly speaking, there are three possible explanations to consider as the story moves forward.

1. Trump’s incompetence has reached a dangerous level. A former senior U.S. official with close ties to current administration officials told the Post the president “doesn’t grasp the gravity of the things he’s dealing with, especially when it comes to intelligence and national security.” In other words, Trump is provided with highly sensitive secrets, but he’s simply too incompetent to treat that information with care.

2. Trump’s ego has reached a dangerous level. A Trump adviser told Politico the president wanted to “impress” his Russian guests by bragging about information he knows. Naveed Jamali, a U.S. intelligence professional, told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes last night that Trump “gave away this information for nothing short of his vanity and his ego.”

3. Has Trump been compromised? The least charitable explanation is that Trump gave Russian officials classified secrets on purpose because he’s in league with them.

None of these explanations is encouraging, but Americans deserve to know which one is true.

Donald Trump, Intelligence, Russia and Scandals

Why Trump would share highly classified secrets with the Russians

Updated