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First Read’s Morning Clips: The Russia Bombshell

TRUMP AGENDA: The latest bombshell story

The bombshell story, from the Washington Post: “President 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 Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State. The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said. The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said Trump’s decision to do so endangers cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. After Trump’s meeting, senior White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency.”

The New York Times also matched the story: “Mr. Trump’s disclosure does not appear to have been illegal — the president has the power to declassify almost anything. But sharing the information without the express permission of the ally who provided it was a major breach of espionage etiquette, and could jeopardize a crucial intelligence-sharing relationship. In fact, the ally has repeatedly warned American officials that it would cut off access to such sensitive information if it were shared too widely, the former official said. In this case, the fear is that Russia will be able to determine exactly how the information was collected and could disrupt the ally’s espionage efforts.”

Here’s what National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said last night: “The story that came out tonight as reported is false… At no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed. The president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known...I was in the room. It didn't happen.”

And here’s what Trump tweeted this morning: “As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining... ...to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.”

Hallie Jackson reports on the behind-the-scenes scramble at the White House after the story broke.

MSNBC has a quick review of what Trump said about classified information during the election.

Lawfare has a long and worthwhile take here. “If the President gave this information away through carelessness or neglect, he has arguably breached his oath of office. As Quinta and Ben have elaborated on in some detail, in taking the oath President Trump swore to “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States” and to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” to the best of his ability. It’s very hard to argue that carelessly giving away highly sensitive material to an adversary foreign power constitutes a faithful execution of the office of President.”

The Washington Post looks at what Trump is doing to get ready for his overseas trip. “On foreign soil, Trump will have to navigate diplomatic land mines — from negotiating peace between the Israelis and Palestinians to reassuring jittery European allies to following protocol in greeting Pope Francis… Trump’s advisers say the president understands the stakes and is taking his preparation seriously. His team deliberately scaled back his public schedule in the two weeks leading up to his planned Friday departure, even though much of his time last week was eaten up by the Comey drama and talks about shaking up his West Wing staff.”

POLITICO, on Trump’s trust problem: “President Donald Trump was accused of leaking highly classified information to Russian officials, and White House officials wanted to fiercely rebut the charges. But when senior national security officials issued statements Monday night, including from behind a podium on the West Wing driveway, they spoke for an administration that has strained its credibility by issuing a series of false, misleading or tortured statements on far less important matters. And they spoke for a president who less than a week ago said publicly that his aides and surrogates can’t be expected to give accurate statements, because they don’t always know what’s going on.”

David Brooks, not mincing words, in the New York Times: “At base, Trump is an infantalist. There are three tasks that most mature adults have sort of figured out by the time they hit 25. Trump has mastered none of them. Immaturity is becoming the dominant note of his presidency, lack of self-control his leitmotif.”

OFF TO THE RACES: Ossoff targets Handel on Planned Parenthood

GA-6: From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Democrat Jon Ossoff launched a new round of attack ads on Tuesday that for the first time targeted Republican Karen Handel’s stint at a breast-cancer charity, calling her short-lived tenure at the Susan G. Komen Foundation “unforgivable.” The 30-second ad features Mindy Fine, an OB-GYN in Cobb County, and opens a new front in the 6th District race. Clad in medical scrubs, she says Handel “cut off funding for Planned Parenthood cancer screenings when she was an executive at Susan G. Komen.” And then: “I don’t usually get involved in politics, but as a doctor and a breast cancer survivor myself, what Karen Handel did is unforgivable.”

SC-5: Republicans in the 5th district are headed to the polls to choose their special election nominee.

MT-AL: Greg Gianforte is lending himself $1 million in the final stretch.

NJ-GOV: Joe Biden will campaign for Phil Murphy.

VA-GOV: The Richmond Times-Dispatch: “Anti-establishment Republican Corey Stewart denounced lots of people, places and things Monday night, but maintained his silence over the recent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville that every other candidate in Virginia’s governor’s race has condemned.”