Ex-CIA chief: Trump sharing classified intel with Russians 'extremely unwise' and 'damaging'

President Donald Trump's reported sharing of highly classified information with Russian officials during a White House meeting on May 10th was "extremely unwise" and could be "damaging" to future U.S. intelligence gathering efforts, according to former Director of the CIA and one-time Trump advisor James Woolsey.

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"You should not talk about ongoing intelligence work," Woolsey said speaking with AOL.com.

Woolsey, who served as CIA director under former President Bill Clinton, adds to a growing chorus of former intelligence officials voicing concerns with the Trump administration's reported handling of classified information and the potential impact it may have on relationships with allies.

Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell called Trump's reported sharing of intel with the Russians, which the White House denies, "highly damaging."

Click through other reactions to reports that Trump gave classified info to Russian officials:

Reaction to report that Trump gave classified info to Russian officials
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Reaction to report that Trump gave classified info to Russian officials
Protip: Don’t give the Russians classified information. #Classified101
Protecting our national security is one of the most important tasks a president has, and Trump is failing at it. https://t.co/3hr9htzmZ2
Next time somebody says revealing unconstitutional mass surveillance to the press crossed a line, show them this: https://t.co/Ofr0WRVuso
Shocking actions for any American President but sadly unsurprising coming from President Trump. https://t.co/yPgycqLyda
NEW: Statement from @SpeakerRyan came. “We have no way to know what was said, but protecting our nation's secrets is paramount." (1/2)
THIS: .@SpeakerRyan statement on WaPo story (2/2): "The speaker hopes for a full explanation of the facts from the administration."
If true, deeply disturbing... https://t.co/gHc10i1pWv
@benjaminwittes @BlogsofWar An eloquent friend who has served at high levels just said to me, "For the first time i… https://t.co/68MjJgaHfi
This was a joke when I tweeted it. Turned out to be real. https://t.co/hD6oP6762z
This is unacceptable, completely unacceptable... https://t.co/9cEmnhH6eY
If true, this is a slap in the face to the intel community. Risking sources & methods is inexcusable, particularly… https://t.co/pheWzFNv4a
All 3 statements sent via @PressSec: Tillerson, McMaster & Powell 👇👇 https://t.co/FUa2RNglG3
In 2011, Republican senators added amendment No. 1310 to NDAA to bar sharing classified info on MD with Russians. Will they speak out now?
Pelosi: Trump has "jeopardized the security of the American people." https://t.co/PEFBf2dxWQ
If the Washington Post report is true, it is very disturbing. Revealing classified information at this level is extremely dangerous.
Report that Trump shared highly classified intelligence with Russians is deeply disturbing. House Intel needs to be… https://t.co/3nrwNg9vyk

"Countries who provide the United States with intelligence information will now have pause to do so if the United States is sharing such information with the Russians without their permission," Morell said.

Woolsey stopped short of saying Trump would be breaking any laws by sharing highly sensitive information with Russian officials. While the president's actions may have been "unwise," Woolsey advised, it is well within Trump's power to declassify information.

"Can't find a crime here ... yet," said Woolsey. "When he treats something as unclassified it thereby becomes unclassified."

"He (President Trump) could say something that violates the espionage laws but we haven't seen any evidence of that."

Trump's relationship with the intelligence community has been rocky, and at times even hostile, both before and after the 2016 presidential election. In December of 2016, Trump slammed the intel agency's track record on investigations saying, "These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction."

The president later compared the intelligence community to "Nazi Germany" following the publication of an unsubstantiated report claiming Russia had detrimental information on the president. "Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to "leak" into the public," Trump tweeted. "One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?"

Former CIA Director John Brennan said he was "deeply saddened and angered" after the president delivered a speech at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, calling it a "despicable display of self-aggrandizement in front of CIA's Memorial Wall of Agency heroes."

Woolsey also echoed the Trump administration's condemnation of leaks emerging from inside the government, saying "the only crime that seems clear is the turning loose of the intelligence to the public or to reporters. That's a felony."

The president has on numerous occasions shifted the focus away from negative reports and onto what he calls "the real story" -- leakers.

"The real story turns out to be SURVEILLANCE and LEAKING! Find the leakers," Trump tweeted back in April. "I have been asking Director Comey & others, from the beginning of my administration, to find the LEAKERS in the intelligence community....."

Reports indicate that the unusual abundance of leaks coming from the new administration points to growing distrust and concern among government workers regarding the president's leadership and possible ties to Russia. While others claim the leaks stem from the politicization of government agencies and "deep state" employees working to ensure Trump fails.

"It might be one person," said Woolsey. "Or it might be a mood that has taken over agencies, which can be terribly damaging."

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