President Donald Trump and the White House are responding to the Washington Post report that he shared classified information with Russian officials.
National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster insists the president did not risk national security and was “wholly appropriate” to share the information. According to CBS News, the intelligence President Trump was talking about came from Israel, a strong U.S. ally.
It’s a complicated situation that has a lot of people asking questions. KHOU talked to people in downtown Houston on Tuesday and asked them what they want to know.
Some Houstonians wondered why so many controversies seem to involve Russia.Others were asking what kind of information the President and Israel had agreed to share.
But the most common question: is giving classified information to another country, especially Russia, legal?
KHOU went to legal analyst Gerald Treece to find out.
“The President is Commander-in-Chief,” said Treece. “He is the one government official that we have who has the right to release classified military secrets to whomever he please, it seems. That’s what the law says.”
Another big question people wanted to know: even if sharing that information is not a crime, could President Trump still get impeached for doing so?
Treece says it is possible but not likely.
“President Nixon’s bills of impeachment, three of the four were not criminal charges,” said Treece. “They were abuse of the office. So I think there’s history to where impeachment could be brought for about any reason, but we’re talking fantasy land until at least the midterms.”
Another common concern: what does all of this mean for America’s national security?
To get that answer, KHOU talked to Richard Stoll, the Albert Thomas Professor of Political Science at Rice University and a well-known expert on international conflict at the Baker Institute.
Stoll says leaking this information could not only put sources working undercover with groups like ISIS in danger, it could also make allies like Israel think twice about sharing information.
“By disclosing the information to the Russians, they make it easier for the Russians and others to figure out how the Israelis got ahold of this information,” said Stoll. “So for their own national security, they may decide ‘We can’t share as much with the United States as we might like to.’”
Both Treece and Stoll say the incident detailed by the Washington Post is the first time they can remember something similar happening at that level involving national security.