Pelosi: Trump’s ‘messy’ approach to intel puts U.S. at risk

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) warned Monday that President Trump’s “messy” handling of classified information threatens the effectiveness of the intelligence community at the expense of national security.

Responding to Monday evening revelations that Trump disclosed highly sensitive intelligence to Russian officials, Pelosi accused Trump of being ill-prepared for the job of commander in chief and urged the president to take his national security duties more seriously.

“This messy approach to intelligence … is very endangering,” Pelosi said during a town hall aired live on CNN. “We cannot have the president of the United States being casually loose-lipped about confirming something — even if it’s in the public domain — to an adversarial nation.”

Choosing her words carefully, Pelosi stopped short of saying Trump is incompetent, and she pushed back against the notion that the president should be impeached, as some Democrats in her caucus are suggesting. 

“I think it goes to the preparedness, or lack thereof, of [Trump] to be president,” she said. “This is sloppy, and he can correct it. But we have to know more about it.

“He can’t do it again.”

Pelosi also cautioned that Trump’s discussion with the Russian officials — reportedly on the topic of potential attacks by ISIS terrorists — could tip off those militants in a way that might escalate their attacks on the United States and other Western allies. 

“You never want the target to know they’re the target — that you’re onto them in a certain way,” Pelosi said. “And that does — and that has — accelerated their actions in the past. 

“So that’s another danger.”

The latest chapter in the Trump-Russia saga arrived with a bang Monday evening with allegations that the president had disclosed "code-word information" — one of the highest levels of classification — to Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador to the U.S. during a closely watched meeting last week at the White House.

First reported by The Washington Post, the story said Trump revealed ISIS-related information provided by an unnamed U.S. partner — a partner that had not given the administration its approval to share the intel with Russia.

The anonymous sources cited by the Post, including current and former federal officials, suggested the disclosure paves the way for Russian officials to decipher the source and other information that could prove harmful to U.S. interests. 

Top White House officials were quick to refute the story, with national security adviser H.R. McMaster calling it patently false. 

“The president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known,” McMaster said in a hastily scheduled press briefing at the White House. “Two other senior officials who were present, including the secretary of State, remember the meeting the same way and have said so."

"Their on-the-record accounts should outweigh those of anonymous sources,” he added. “I was in the room — it didn’t happen.”

McMaster did not take questions from reporters.

Asked if she was satisfied with the White House response, Pelosi didn’t hesitate.

“No,” she said. “The president could be saying something that’s in the public domain, but confirming it to the Russians in a way that it very dangerous.”

Pelosi said there are several forms of danger.

“Even if the president didn’t reveal a source or method … what he did reveal could be traced very directly to a source and method,” she said. “That endangers a couple things. It endangers the person or persons [behind the intelligence]; the activity; it could undermine an operation that could be saving lives. And it undermines the trust that we would have with our allies.

“If it was on purpose, that would be terrible, and if it was accidental, that would be very terrible too.”

The Post story sparked a firestorm on Capitol Hill, where many lawmakers are already up in arms over Trump’s decision last week to fire FBI Director James Comey, who was leading an investigation into possible ties between Trump's campaign and Russia. Senate Democrats, in particular, are eagerly anticipating a briefing on the firing, scheduled for Thursday. Following the Post story, many are already calling for a second briefing on Trump’s conversations with the Russian officials. 

“Revealing classified information at this level is extremely dangerous and puts at risk the lives of Americans and those who gather intelligence for our country,” Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats' education agenda would jeopardize state-level success Overnight Health Care — Presented by the Association of American Medical Colleges — Trump officials move to expand non-ObamaCare health plans | 'Zero tolerance' policy stirs fears in health community | New ObamaCare repeal plan Selling government assets would be a responsible move in infrastructure deal MORE (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. 

Pelosi, appearing just hours later at the town hall, echoed that message.  

"This is nothing casual. … This is dangerous. I would hope that it would be a lesson to the president to have his daily intelligence briefings so he understands the connection from one report to the next,” she said. 

“And that he has a higher respect for what the intelligence community does.”