WASHINGTON (AP) — For months, U.S. allies have anxiously wondered if President Donald Trump could be trusted with some of the world’s most sensitive national security secrets.
Now, just a few days before Trump’s debut on the international stage, he’s giving allies new reasons to worry. The Washington Post reported Monday that Trump revealed highly classified information about an Islamic State plot to senior Russian officials during an Oval Office meeting last week. The information had been obtained by a U.S. partner and shared with Washington, the Post reported.
“This is what Europeans have been worrying about,” one Western official said.
The revelations are sure to shadow Trump as he embarks Friday on his first overseas trip as president. After high-stakes visits to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican, he’ll meet some of Washington’s strongest European partners at a NATO summit in Brussels and the Group of 7 meeting in Sicily. Some of the leaders he’ll meet come from countries the U.S. has intelligence-sharing agreements with.
Trump has a contentious relationship with American spy agencies. He’s questioned the competence of intelligence officials, challenged their assessment that Russia meddled in last year’s election to help him win, and accused them of leaking information about him and his associates.
The leaks have only continued to flow.
The Post, citing current and former U.S. officials, said Trump shared details with top Russian officials about an Islamic State terror threat related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft. White House officials disputed the report, saying Trump did not disclose intelligence sources or methods with the Russians, though they did not deny that classified information was disclosed in the May 10 meeting.
The White House has looked to the trip as a moment to draw Trump out of Washington’s hyper-partisan hothouse and put him in a more statesman-like setting. He’s expected to be warmly received by Arab allies in Saudi Arabia, who welcomed his decision to launch missiles against a Syrian air base following a chemical weapons attack, and in Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu views Trump as more favorable to his interests than former President Barack Obama.
But some of the European partners Trump will meet later in his trip have been more skeptical about his policies, including a controversial travel and immigration ban that’s been blocked by U.S. courts. Western allies, including Britain and Germany, have also been wary of Trump’s warmness toward Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was kicked out of the summit of leading economic powers after Moscow’s annexation of territory from Ukraine.
The White House’s botched handling of Trump’s firing last week of FBI Director James Comey, who was overseeing the bureau’s Russia probe, and the president’s own volatile statements about his actions are also likely to raise questions among allies about the U.S. leader’s standing.
Anthony Cordesman, a national security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said allies will be trying to size up Trump’s “actual political strength relative to the divisions with Congress, the problems within his own party.”
“Can he move forward with his own agenda? That will certainly be a question as he visits any country overseas,” Cordesman said.