Trump defends sharing terrorism 'facts' with Russians

2017-05-16 20:00
President Donald Trump meeting Russian Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the White House. (AP)

President Donald Trump meeting Russian Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the White House. (AP)

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Washington - US President Donald Trump on Tuesday defended his decision to share "facts pertaining to terrorism" and airline safety with Russia, saying in a pair of tweets he has "an absolute right" as president to do so.

Trump's tweets did not say whether he revealed classified information about the Islamic State group, as published reports and a US official have confirmed.

The White House has pushed back against those reports, but has not denied that classified information was disclosed in the May 10 meeting between Trump and Russian diplomats.

In a pair of tweets, the president responded to a firestorm of criticism triggered by the reports.

"I wanted to share with Russia [at an openly scheduled White House 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 and terrorism," Trump tweeted.

Trump shared details about an Islamic State terror threat related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak, said a senior US official. The classified information had been shared with the president by an ally, violating the confidentiality of an intelligence-sharing agreement with that country, the official said.

The official would not say which country's intelligence was divulged.

The disclosure put a source of intelligence on the Islamic State at risk, according to The Washington Post, which first reported the disclosure on Monday.

Trump later was informed that he had broken protocol and White House officials placed calls to the National Security Agency and the CIA looking to minimise any damage.

Russia's foreign ministry spokesperson denied the report. Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry, on Facebook on Tuesday described the reports as "yet another fake".

The CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence have declined to comment.

The US official said that Trump boasted about his access to classified intelligence in last week's meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak. An excerpt to an official transcript of the meeting reveals that Trump told them, "I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day," he said.

Kislyak has been a central player in the snowballing controversy surrounding possible co-ordination between Trump's campaign and Russia's election meddling.

The revelations drew strong condemnation from Democrats and a rare rebuke of Trump from some Republican lawmakers. White House officials denounced the report, saying the president did not disclose intelligence sources or methods to the Russians, though officials did not deny that classified information was disclosed in the May 10 meeting.

"The president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries including threats to civil aviation," said HR McMaster, Trump's national security adviser. "At no time...at no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed and the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known".

The revelations could further damage Trump's already fraught relationship with US intelligence agencies. He's openly questioned the competency of intelligence officials and challenged their high-confidence assessment that Russia meddled in last year's presidential election to help him win. His criticism has been followed by a steady stream of leaks to the media that have been damaging to Trump and exposed an FBI investigation into his associates' possible ties to Russia.


Read more on:    cia  |  fbi  |  us  |  russia

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