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.