Russian President Vladimir Putin says US President Donald Trump did not pass any secrets onto Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during a meeting in Washington last week — and he has evidence that could prove it.
- Vladimir Putin says Russia is ready to hand transcript of Donald Trump’s meeting to US lawmakers
- Two US officials said on Monday Mr Trump had disclosed classified information to Russia
- Israeli officials declined to confirm whether they were source of information Mr Trump shared
Speaking at a news conference alongside Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, Mr Putin quipped that Mr Lavrov was remiss for not passing on what he made clear he believed were non-existent secrets.
“I spoke to him [Lavrov] today,” Mr Putin said with a smile on Wednesday.
“I’ll be forced to issue him with a reprimand because he did not share these secrets with us. Not with me, nor with representatives of Russia’s intelligence services. It was very bad of him.”
Mr Putin said Russia was ready to hand a transcript of Mr Trump’s meeting with Mr Lavrov over to US lawmakers if that would help reassure them.
A Kremlin aide, Yuri Ushakov, later told reporters that Moscow had in its possession a written record of the conversation, not an audio recording.
Complaining about what he said were signs of “political schizophrenia” in the US, Mr Putin said Mr Trump was not being allowed to do his job properly.
“It’s hard to imagine what else can these people who generate such nonsense and rubbish can dream up next,” Mr Putin said.
“What surprises me is that they are shaking up the domestic political situation using anti-Russian slogans.
“Either they don’t understand the damage they’re doing to their own country, in which case they are simply stupid, or they understand everything, in which case they are dangerous and corrupt.”
Experts warn Israeli agent may be compromised
Two US officials said on Monday that Mr Trump had disclosed highly classified information to Mr Lavrov about a planned Islamic State operation, plunging the White House into another controversy just months into Mr Trump’s short tenure in office.
The New York Times, citing a current and a former US official, reported on Tuesday the information Mr Trump divulged came from an Israeli intelligence asset based in IS-held territory in Syria.
Israeli officials have declined to confirm whether they were the source of the information Mr Trump shared, but have been quick to say counter-terrorism coordination with the US is strong.
Mr Trump confirmed via Twitter that during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the White House last week he shared information related to a potential airline plot by Islamic State, thought to involve a laptop bomb.
Israeli intelligence experts said they are gravely concerned the alleged incident may have compromised an Israeli agent, but do not expect any long-term consequences for intelligence cooperation.
They said Israel had developed a deep network of human and signal intelligence across the region and it was plausible that it had managed to infiltrate IS as part of that long-running effort.
“Israeli intelligence agencies have shown that they can have such human sources,” said Aviv Oreg, former head of the Al Qaeda and global jihad desk in the army’s military intelligence department, who now runs a counter-terrorism consultancy.
“It would take a lot to put someone inside ISIS. If there is an agent, I’m sure it’s the only one.
“If we have really lost a human source over there, it’s a major loss and it will take years to regenerate another one.”
‘Local damage, not a disaster’
Kobi Michael, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies and the former deputy director of Israel’s ministry of strategic affairs, described Mr Trump’s leak as “very concerning” if there was a risk of having endangered an Israeli asset.
While there were good reasons to assume the compromised source was an agent, he said it was also possible it was well-placed piece of signal intelligence.
“When it comes to ISIS, they are very active in the social network world and on digital platforms. So who knows, all options are valid, even if as far as I understand the context, it looks like a human intelligence source,” he said.
Michael described Israel as having far better intelligence capabilities in the region than the US, making it a critical partner for Washington.
Yet both sides have an interest in continuing to cooperate fully on intelligence.
“What happened is a problem, it shouldn’t have happened. But mistakes do get made, not only by the Americans, but sometimes by the Israelis too,” he said.
“I assume that Trump had other considerations in mind and was perhaps not aware of the consequences of what he was saying. But this should not change the level of cooperation, which needs to be constantly broadened and deepened.”
Amnon Sofrin, former head of Mossad’s intelligence directorate, said the issue was unlikely to be touched on when Mr Trump visits Israel on his first foreign trip next week.