Release transcripts of President Trump's Oval Office meeting with Russian foreign minister and ambassador: Tim Ryan (Opinion)

Jul 18, 2017

Originally published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer: 

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Bombshell after bombshell of news came out of Thursday's hearing with former FBI Director James Comey. However, President Donald Trump's firing of Comey also obscures one of the most important revelations from the past several weeks: President Trump knowingly handed over highly classified and closely guarded intelligence to Russian officials.

In a rare instance, the Washington Post, the U.S. national security adviser and President Trump all agree on something: In a meeting on May 10 with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak - Russian officials who stand firmly against our nation's democratic principles - President Trump decided to give them highly classified and closely guarded intelligence on the Islamic State.

This is not an alternative fact, this is not fake news.

President Donald Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said that Trump's disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.

As a member of the House Appropriations Committee's Defense Subcommittee and someone who is privy to classified intelligence, I believe that America became less safe when the president declassified and shared sensitive intelligence to a known adversary of not only America, but also of freedom and democracy throughout the world.

This issue hits close to home for me. I think of the 1,300 Ohio National Guard soldiers and airmen and women currently deployed or in pre-mobilization training. While they are spread out across the globe risking their lives in the U.S. Southern Command, U.S. European Command, U.S. Central Command and U.S. Pacific Command, they rely on the Trump administration to keep secrets safe so that their jobs are not made any riskier. These Americans made the selfless decision to risk their lives in defense of our great country.

The delicate web of intelligence is part of how we keep our deployed service members safe. Intelligence is built on relationships of trust, and the sensitive relationship with our allies who provide us information just took a severe hit.

The president's unethical leak of information guarantees that our allies are going to pause before sharing future information that could protect and save the lives of our soldiers, sailors, Marines, and Air Force service members. Indeed, one must be concerned that our own intelligence officials will be reluctant to share everything they know with the president for fear that he will decide, on the spur of the moment, to share it with the next person to walk in his office.

Local officials had hoped that last year's Republican National Convention would bring media exposure to Cleveland. Well, the GOP convention and Cleveland are taking another spin through the news cycle, thanks to new reporting detailing interactions between Donald Trump campaign officials and Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak during the July 2016 event.

 

When President Trump revealed this intelligence, he opened the door for adversarial nations to identify the data source, possibly placing the life of that source in danger.

In my district, two Afghan translators who risked their lives to protect our service members now live alongside their American comrades. Their service made it impossible to stay in Afghanistan for their own safety. When I think of the faces of those two patriots, it helps me understand the threat faced by sources at risk from President Trump's loose lips.

This is not a partisan issue. Even Sen. John McCain, a staunch Republican with decades of military experience, called Trump's disclosure "deeply disturbing." This goes to the heart of all these concerns.

Integrity matters. Integrity with our allies who risk their lives for a shared vision of democracy, freedom and peace. Integrity to the intention behind the law which we have sworn to uphold.

Each of these things, the president tossed aside like a small child does a toy he or she no longer wants.

The American people are owed more. Congress owes you integrity to our constitutional requirement as a co-equal branch of government trusted with oversight to hold our president accountable.

As the past actions and this week's hearing have shown us, it is far past time for congressional Republicans to show some courage and integrity and to hold President Trump and his allies accountable for their actions.

I call upon my fellow members of Congress to demand the transcripts of this meeting, to provide oversight and accountability for the intelligence that was leaked to an adversary, and to uphold our commitment to the brave men and women on the front lines that we value integrity and alliances that keep our service members and our country safe. 

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, of Howland Township in Trumbull County, represents Ohio's 13th Congressional District. A Democrat, he serves on the House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Defense and Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs.