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It has been less than 24 hours since the Washington Post broke the story of President Trump sharing highly classified intelligence with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week.
First, the White House, including National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, issued a fierce denial of the story.
Then this morning, Trump admitted to sharing the intelligence, tweeting: "I have the absolute right to do."
This afternoon, McMaster stepped to the podium again, saying, "What the president discussed with the foreign minister was wholly appropriate to that conversation, and is consistent with the routine sharing of information between the president and any leaders with whom he's engaged."
Then, the president spoke, at a joint press conference with the Turkish president: "As General McMaster said, I thought he said and I know he feels we had actually a great meeting with the foreign minister so we're gonna have a lot of great success over the next coming years."
We discuss the local reaction to the reports.
On his reaction sharing of allegedly classified information by the president:
James Stavridis: “There are three things that have gone badly wrong here. One is tactical: We placed a source in real danger, in my view. That can have consequences for us, here in the United States. Secondly, our allies are going to be less likely to share information with us. Think how we would feel if Chancellor Merkel of Germany passed classified material that we had shared with the Germans to the Russians. And thirdly, and worst of all, the real winners are the Russians. They’ve managed to blow up Washington again, they divide us, they create real controversy, and we can’t address the problem we need to go after North Korea, the Islamic State, and so on.”
On what General McMaster needs to do his job right:
Stavridis: “He can only do his job with a cooperative president. I’ve worked in and around near 10 national security advisers over the years, at different levels in my career and the common trait they share when they are successful is that they have a mental bond with the president. I think that the president's approach to so scattershot, so up and down, so in and out that it is going to difficult for McMaster to master that.”
On whether the president is undermining the capability of the U.S. national security apparatus:
Stavridis: "We have a less capable national security apparatus despite the tone that we see in the White House today; we have a very capable secretary of defense, we have a very capable secretary of homeland security, I think the secretary of state is growing into his role as well. So, there are grownups in the White House. The question is can they come together and produce a presidency that actually has coherent strategy? That remains to be seen."
On how Trump’s sharing of classified information could impact U.S. national security:
Stavridis: “...Intelligence is not like photograph, it’s like a mosaic, where individual, little colored pieces fit in, and all of a sudden the pictures make sense to you. We can’t do that by ourselves. We need our partners and friends to help us fill in the mosaic. They are going to withhold bits and pieces because they are going to be afraid of leaks -- they are afraid they will be burned and their sources will be burned. That will diminish our security immeasurable, especially in regards to counter terrorism.”
On what the role of Congress should be:
Stavridis: “I think the role of Congress [...] will be [...] to follow this Russian investigation wherever the facts lead because part of this whole aspect that makes this so distasteful as an incident is this whiff of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. So, Congress has to follow those facts. Secondly, Congress has the authority to pass a resolution to exert a certain level of control over the budget process which can be very salutary in focusing the mind of the executive branch.”
This segment aired on May 16, 2017.