Must-Read: Jack Goldsmith et al.: Bombshell: Initial Thoughts: "H.R. McMaster... Rex Tillerson... very carefully worded statements that leave open the possibility that classified information was disclosed other than sources and methods... https://www.lawfareblog.com/bombshell-initial-thoughts-washington-posts-game-changing-story

...or that classified information was disclosed which might be used as a basis to infer sources and methods not directly disclosed. Typically, policies related to the safeguarding of classified information treat both sources and methods information and information pertaining to or related to sources and methods in the same category.... McMaster further stated:

The story that came out tonight, as reported, is false.... At no time... were intelligence sources or methods discussed. And the president did not disclose any military operations that were not publicly known... I was in the room, it didn’t happen...

Again, this statement is carefully worded. The declaration that the story “as reported” is untrue leaves plenty of room.... Once again, McMaster does not deny that an egregious breach of national security information was revealed, merely that “intelligence sources or methods [were] discussed” and that the President “disclose[d] any military operations that were not publicly known.”... Greg Miller... accused the White House of “playing word games”.... There may be disclosures yet to come....

This is perhaps the gravest allegation of presidential misconduct in the scandal-ridden four months of the Trump administration.... This is not a question of... breaking a criminal law.... Anyone other than the President disclos[ing] codeword intelligence to the Russians in such fashion... would likely be facing a long prison term. But... the nature of the system is that the President gets to disclose what he wants. The reason is that the very purpose of the classification system is to protect information the President, usually through his subordinates, thinks sensitive.... Because of his broad constitutional authority in this realm, the president can, at any time, either declassify information or decide whom to share it with....

This is not a garden variety breach, and outrage over it is not partisan hypocrisy.... The information allegedly disclosed here appears to be of an extremely sensitive nature. According to the Post, President Trump’s own aides “appeared to recognize immediately that Trump had overstepped and moved to contain the potential fallout” by contacting the directors of CIA and NSA.... The information in question is of particular significance both because the Russians might be able to infer sources and methods, notwithstanding General McMaster’s careful statement that sources and methods were not “discussed,” and because it was shared with the United States by a foreign partner....

It is important to understand the... gravity of the breach.... If sources and methods information is revealed, it risks losing the method of collection in the future, which poses much larger long-term security consequences....

It really matters why Trump disclosed this information to Russian visitors.... [If] Trump acted impulsively and in a boasting kind of way... the matter is egregiously bad.... There are important questions on which Congress and the public will need clarity before deciding how to act....

This may well be a violation of the President’s oath of office.... 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. Violating the oath of office does not require violating a criminal statute.... Congress has alleged oath violations—albeit violations tied to criminal allegations or breaches of statutory obligations—all three times it has passed or considered seriously articles of impeachment against presidents.... Two of the three articles of impeachment against Nixon alleged no direct violation of the law. Instead, they concerned Nixon’s abuse of his power as President... offense[s] that can only be committed by the President and ha[ve] thus never been explicitly prohibited in criminal law. There’s thus no reason why Congress couldn’t consider a grotesque violation of the President’s oath as a standalone basis for impeachment—a high crime and misdemeanor in and of itself....

It matters hugely, at least from an atmospheric point of view, that the people in the room were Russian and one of them was Sergey Kislyak of all people.... This conduct would be equally inexcusable if the recipients were not Russian, but say, Chinese. At the same time, the question of whether it’s a mere coincidence that the President disclosed codeword classified material to the Russian government, having spent the last few months deriding the idea that he had any connection to Russia as #FakeNews is one the White House cannot avoid.

Seventh, Trump’s screw-up with the Russians in the Oval Office raises the stakes for whether he records conversations there....

Eighth, this episode raises the stakes on the nomination of the FBI Director to replace Comey....   

Finally, Trump’s alleged screw-up with the Russians reveals yet again what we have learned many times in the last four months: The successful operation of our government assumes a minimally competent Chief Executive that we now lack.... It matters who we have running the most powerful institution in the world.

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