‘It never stops,’ one White House official said after reports emerged about Trump disclosing highly sensitive information to the Russians.
In a span of 24 hours last week, President Trump startled his senior aides by firing the FBI director investigating his campaign’s Russian ties and allegedly disclosing highly classified information to Russian officials in a free-wheeling Oval Office conversation.
Trump, according to people who spoke with him, was taken aback by the backlash to the firing and unfazed by the conversation with Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador.
As Trump eyes a reorganization of his senior staff and blames a range of misfires on former President Barack Obama, warring White House aides, an ineffective communications shop, the “failing” news media, members of Congress and others, the latest episodes reveal what senior aides and advisers privately say: The problems often come from the top.
“It never stops,” one White House official said via text message Monday night. “Basically chaos at all times.”
The episode regarding classified information, which allegedly occurred last Wednesday in the Oval Office, was first reported by The Washington Post and sent his White House again in crisis control mode, days ahead of his first foreign trip. Aides had sought a calm week to avoid a widespread staff shake-up, which a displeased Trump has groused about to advisers and associates for the past four days. Earlier Monday, several officials said they were scrambling behind the scenes to appease Trump and avoid any seismic moves ahead of the trip.
The lengthy Washington Post report said Trump shared information about Islamic State operations with Russia that was “highly classified” and obtained through an intelligence-sharing partner that had not given the United States permission to share the information. While his conduct did not likely break the law — presidents can declassify information when they choose — it struck current and former U.S. intelligence officials as highly unusual.
“I get great intel,” Trump bragged to the Russian officials, according to the Washington Post, before sharing it.
But several advisers and others close to Trump said they wouldn’t be surprised if Trump gave information he shouldn’t have.
One adviser who often speaks to the president said the conversation was likely freewheeling in the Oval Office, and he probably wanted to impress the officials.
“He doesn’t really know any boundaries. He doesn’t think in those terms,” this adviser said. “He doesn’t sometimes realize the implications of what he’s saying. I don’t think it was his intention in any way to share any classified information. He wouldn’t want to do that.”
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