The alleged mistake was so “grave” that someone inside the White House “very close to the president” decided to leak it to The Washington Post, Michael McFaul told Greta van Susteren on MSNBC Monday.
Trump discussed highly classified information about threats from the Islamic State militant group with visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, the Post reported, citing unnamed officials. American journalists, meanwhile, were barred from entering the meeting in the Oval Office.
The newspaper reported that Trump named the city where the threat was discovered, which could be used to identify and compromise the source. And the intelligence came from an allied partner that had not given the U.S. permission to share the information with anyone, according to the Post.
“My thoughts are this is a complete disaster, it’s an embarrassment,” said McFaul, who served as ambassador from 2012 to 2014, and was a special assistant to former President Barack Obama on Russian affairs for three years before that. “It will undermine our credibility in working with intelligence agencies that are vital to defending America’s national interests. It’s just inexcusable that this happens and it’s inexcusable for the White House National Security staff, too.”
National Security staff members, he said, are tasked with the very important job of preparing the president for such a meeting. They “understood how grave their mistake was,” he added. “That is a small group of people that were sitting in that Oval Office meeting. It means that somebody very close to the president decided this was such a big mistake that they had to tell the world about it.”
McFaul warned it’s dangerous to assume that the U.S and Russia have the same interests and that we are “aligned with them in Syria — that is just not true, including even with ISIS.”
He told Brian Williams later on MSNBC that Trump was apparently “showing off” in front of the Russian officials. McFaul said that people on Trump's national security team “are so worried about what he’s doing that they felt compelled to leak” the information.
McFaul told Williams that the information sharing, coming after Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, “makes us all suspicious about what is the credibility of the president and his White House, and what is their commitment to the truth, which is very concerning.”