Wed, May 17, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Trump says he has right to share ‘facts’

‘TERRORISM’:The US president has come under severe criticism over reports that he had shared classified information about the Islamic State group with Moscow

AP, WASHINGTON

A handout photo made available by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs shows US President Donald Trump, center, speaking with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, left, and Russian Ambassador to the US Sergei Kislyak during their meeting in the White House in Washington on Wednesday last week.

Photo: EPA

US President Donald Trump yesterday defended his right 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 have said and as a US official told The Associated Press yesterday.

The White House has pushed back against those reports, but has not denied that classified information was disclosed in the meeting on Wednesday last week 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 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,” Trump tweeted, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Trump shared details about an Islamic State group terror threat related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft with Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak, a senior US official said on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly.

The classified information had been shared with the president by an ally, violating the confidentiality of an intelligence-sharing agreement with that country, said the official, who would not say which country’s intelligence was divulged.

The disclosure put a source of intelligence on the Islamic State group 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 US National Security Agency and the CIA looking to minimize any damage.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied the report, with spokeswoman Maria Zakharova saying on Facebook that the reports were “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 the 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.”

Kislyak has been a central player in the snowballing controversy surrounding possible coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia’s election meddling.

The revelations drew strong condemnation from Democrats and a rare rebuke of Trump from several Republican lawmakers.

White House officials denounced the report, saying that the president did not disclose intelligence sources or methods to the Russians, though officials did not deny that classified information was disclosed in the meeting.

“The president and the [Russian] foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation,” US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said.

“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,” he said.

The revelations could further damage Trump’s already fraught relationship with US intelligence agencies. He has 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.

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