2017 Archives

Reports of Trump sharing intel with Russians puts relationship with intelligence services in jeopardy

Reports of denials, confirmations overblown, but it doesn’t look good

May 16, 2017

Joshua Rovner
Joshua Rovner
jrovner@smu.edu

DALLAS (SMU)SMU political science faculty are available to lend their expertise to journalists reporting on the latest politics of the day. A full list of available faculty and their areas of expertise is available here. Following are comments from SMU Political Science Professor Joshua Rovner, the John G. Tower Distinguished Chair of International Politics and National Security, and director of Studies at the Tower Center for Political Studies:

On counterterrorism…

  • “Trump’s decision to share highly classified intelligence with Russia threatens intelligence sharing with third parties, especially regional states like Jordan. The US relies heavily on such agreements, and intelligence officials work hard to sustain relations with their counterparts even during times of political turmoil. Their job just got a lot harder.”

On intelligence…

  • “Before the election, we worried that Trump would ignore the intelligence community, and that relationships between intelligence and policy officials would deteriorate. Lately, the intelligence community has been signaling that the situation had improved. Just last week the Director of National Intelligence testified to the Senate that Trump was an eager consumer of intelligence, and that the intelligence community had arranged for a number of sessions to help get the administration up to speed about what it could provide. This story, however, puts any progress at risk. Intelligence leaders are not likely to trust the administration if they believe it willy-nilly gives sensitive material to a US adversary; the administration will probably suspect the intelligence community of leaking to what it sees as hostile media.”

On what exactly happened last week…

  • “We don’t know. Russia was already aware of the supposed laptop threat, as was everyone else, including ISIS. The question is whether Trump told the Russians something much more specific about ISIS that they wouldn’t know without access to highly classified intelligence. The Washington Post sources say this is what happened. The worry is that Russia will be about to figure out the source by reasoning backwards.”

Didn’t the White House refute the Washington Post article last night?

  • “No. White House officials, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, issued non-denial denials. They did not challenge the substance of the Post report; they talked around it.”

Didn’t Trump confirm it this morning?

  • “No. He said that he shared “facts” with Russia. He said nothing of the question about sharing classified intelligence, which is the heart of the matter.”

Did Trump undermine his advisors?

  • “Sort of. He was happy to let McMaster go in front of cameras last night to characterize the meeting as a broad discussion of ‘a range of common issues.’  But his Tweet this morning suggests that there was a substantive discussion of ISIS, and his declaration of his ‘absolute right’ to share suggests that he did so. In other words, Trump appears to have cut the legs out of his advisors’ efforts to do damage control. This is very similar to last week’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. The official White House position suggested the firing had nothing to do with the ongoing Russia investigation; Trump later intimated that it did.”

Book published:

Media Contact:

Kenny Ryan
SMU News & Communications
214-768-7641

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