Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Is it legal for Trump to share classified intelligence? Yes, but risky, experts say
The nation's capital is engulfed in a debate about President Trump's reported decision to leak highly classified information to top Russian diplomats – but legal analysts and secrecy experts said Monday that American presidents have broad authority to disclose classified information, making them virtually immune from prosecution.
Every other government employee with a clearance could face criminal charges for disclosing classified information without prior permission. But the commander in chief has the power to unilaterally disclose any material – even the most secret intelligence – without going through any kind of formal process.
Still, Trump's decision to share such sensitive information last week in a White House meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak – first reported by the Washington Post – has potentially serious consequences.
Perhaps most serious, said Mark Zaid, an attorney specializing in national security matters, is the prospect that allies would lose their trust in Washington's ability to keep secrets and no longer share valuable intelligence with their American counterparts.