As per CNN's Sources: Trump shared classified info with Russians

President Donald Trump shared highly classified information with the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador to the US in a White House meeting last week, The Washington Post first reported Monday.

I've already heard the outcry since this information has been available so:

  • What reasons may Trump have actually had to arbitrarily deem this "highly classified" information with the Russians, and have there been any other recent US Presidents in history that may have made such a decision in the past sharing with foreign government?

I assume there must be some legitimate political reason why a President would take such actions per their own arbitrary discretion with classified information and that this is not unheard of from other POTUS from the past.

  • 7
    This question is mostly asking us to speculate about motivation, which seems off-topic (the actual answer why Trump did this is likely that he doesn't prepare for these meetings but "just goes with it" as the WP quoted an official, and that he doesn't understand what's classified). The question may be saved by focusing less on this specific situation and Trump, instead asking what benefits there are in general to charing classified military information with non-allies.
    – tim
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 7:33
  • 1
    @tim - we don't have to speculate. The context of the statements was given in the reports of the incident. The "leak" was made in the context of him doing his usual grandstand-bragging about how everything he has is "great" and the "best," - in this case, his intel. Commented May 16, 2017 at 17:24

1 Answer 1


This has two components.

There is probably no legitimate reason to disclose the portion of the highly classified information which is received from a sister intelligence agency under limited terms and conditions in the respects, in which it discloses the methods by which, the information was obtained in a manner that violates the terms under which a sister intelligence agency disclosed the information. That portion of the information is not a secret that belongs to the U.S. to share, and it puts intelligence sources at risk for their personal safety in a matter that may compromise their careers or future usefulness.

There are a variety of legitimate reasons to disclose the substantive portion of the highly classified information which does not disclose the methods used to obtain the information.

For example:

  • To encourage military cooperation and show Russia that there is a common enemy.

  • To add credibility to previous statements made to Russia about the situation or in other contexts.

  • To warn Russia of a threat to Russian military assets or the interests of its allies either as a favor that will hopefully be returned when the moment arrives, or as a humanitarian gesture to protect the lives of those imperiled if they are unaware of this intelligence.

  • 3
    One other possible reason: quid pro quo (legit one - they share some info, we share info).
    – user4012
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 13:30
  • 1
    The information may have been classified, but it might not have been a secret to Russia. For (a trivial) example, even the existence of the US Drone program is classified but I have little doubt that the Russian Government is well aware that the US has drones and uses them.
    – A Bailey
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 15:38
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    @ABailey That isn't how classified information works. Confirmation is bad, confirmation with an explanation of sourcing is worse. Commented May 16, 2017 at 17:32
  • @DrunkCynic This is how the law works, but a U.S. President, knowing that Russia has confirmed the existence of a drone program to its satisfaction, might still find it worthwhile as a matter of policy on a case by case basis to provide information it already knows to build trust or to obtain some other benefit.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented May 17, 2017 at 0:10
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    @DrunkCynic Actually, I've never watched any episodes of West Wing and don't own a television either and don't watch or read political dramas anyway (too much like real life to be entertaining). Also, the fact that a President makes a bad decision (not that I think that the reasons I discussed were actually the one's that Trump relied upon in this case) doesn't mean that a similar reason might be legitimate in some other situation. Certainly, there is no reason to believe that the secrets disclosed in this case in real life were actually known to the Russians in this case.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented May 17, 2017 at 0:18

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