On the heels of this evening’s Washington Post report that Donald Trump gave highly classified U.S. intelligence to the Russians when he met with them on Thursday, a BuzzFeed report reveals that the breach was so severe that a briefing had to be given to the Senate Intelligence Committee. This leads us to ask if it might explain why the two senior members of that committee mysteriously stepped away from their own hearings just hours later.
According to prior reporting from The Hill, Senate Intel Committee chair Richard Burr and ranking member Mark Warner stepped out of their own hearing with newly elevated deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe in order to meet with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (link). At the time, it was widely assumed that it had something to do with the firing of James Comey, which had just taken place the day before. But it never made sense why the meeting with Rosenstein was so urgent that Burr and Warner couldn’t wait for their own hearings to finish first.
This evening’s BuzzFeed report reveals that “at least one member” of the Senate Intel Committee was in fact briefed on Donald Trump’s reveal of classified information to the Russians (link). It’s not known who the member or members might be. Confusingly, according to the BuzzFeed piece, Mark Warner’s office is saying he wasn’t briefed on the matter. But standard procedure for any intel briefing is for the chair and ranking member to be simultaneously briefed on a bipartisan basis, and it would be a controversial breach of protocol to only brief one committee member, so we’re left to wonder if BuzzFeed got this particular detail correct.
Instead we’re left to wonder if Senators Burr and Warner had to urgently step out of their own hearings so they could be immediately informed of Donald Trump’s breach of security, by Deputy AG Rosenstein and an intelligence briefer. It would be the most logical explanation for the chaotic scene which we saw during Thursday’s hearings. On the other hand, if the BuzzFeed claim is correct and only one committee member was briefed, then that would add yet another layer of controversy.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report