Donald Trump Defends Himself Over Reports He Shared Classified Information With Russia

On Twitter, president says he had ‘absolute right’ to share terrorism facts, cites ‘humanitarian reasons’

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National Security Adviser Denies Trump Gave Russians Secrets
In a brief statement to reporters, National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster responded to a Washington Post article that claims President Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian officials during a meeting in the Oval Office last week. Photo: AP

Updated May 16, 2017 10:58 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Tuesday morning to defend himself over reports he shared counterterrorism intelligence obtained from a U.S. ally at an Oval Office meeting with senior Russian officials last week.

“I have the absolute right” as president to share “facts pertaining to terrorism and airline safety,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter, before offering an explanation for why: “Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.”

The tweets offered little to mollify some lawmakers on Capitol Hill, where one leading Senate Republican said the president appeared to be changing the story in a way that was confusing and concerning, and that the allegations were problematic.

The Wall Street Journal reported late Monday that Mr. Trump divulged details about Islamic State to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in his meeting last week in a way that revealed enough information for them to potentially compromise the source of the intelligence, according to officials, who said the intelligence came from the U.S. ally.

As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining….

The Washington Post had earlier reported Mr. Trump’s disclosure, and said White House officials called the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency to warn of Mr. Trump’s disclosure and its possible consequences.

Mr. Trump’s Tuesday tweets were a departure from a hastily assembled but circumspect White House response Monday night, when officials including national security adviser H.R. McMaster said the Post article “as reported is false.”

Mr. McMaster said that Mr. Trump hadn’t shared information about intelligence sources or methods, but stopped short of denying the president had shared any intelligence or other secrets with the Russians.

…to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.

An administration official said Tuesday that Mr. Trump’s tweet Tuesday didn’t confirm the Post article and that it didn’t address the question of whether classified information had been shared by Mr. Trump one way or the other.

According to one U.S. official, the information shared was highly sensitive and difficult to acquire and was considered extraordinarily valuable. The Journal agreed not to identify the ally because another U.S. official said it could jeopardize the source.

Mr. McMaster will speak with reporters in an on-camera briefing from the White House at 11:30 a.m. EDT.

The White House didn’t provide a detailed statement about Mr. Trump’s meeting last week with Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, which was closed to the press. A photographer from the Russian news agency TASS was in the room and published photographs.

I have been asking Director Comey & others, from the beginning of my administration, to find the LEAKERS in the intelligence community…..

Mr. Trump noted on Twitter that the meeting was “openly scheduled.” The meeting with Mr. Lavrov was on the president’s public schedule, but the schedule didn’t state that Mr. Kislyak would attend as well.

Later Tuesday morning, Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter that he had asked former FBI Director James Comey, whom he fired last week the day before the meeting with the Russians, and others “to find the LEAKERS in the intelligence community…..”

Trump’s Tweets Intensify Interest in Russia Investigation
President Donald Trump’s provocative tweets about former FBI Director James Comey and the ongoing Russia investigation are drawing more attention to a probe that continues to disrupt the Trump administration. WSJ’s Shelby Holliday has the story. Photo: Getty
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Presidents have the legal right to declassify intelligence as they see fit. But doing so can put intelligence sources abroad in danger and make them less willing to work with the U.S., several defense officials said, and the latest disclosures stunned Washington’s national-security veterans on both sides of the political divide.

South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune called it “concerning” that “information that reveals classified national security information is shared with the Russians,” although he added that there was “conflicting information.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) said the Trump administration’s initial pushback on the reports indicates the White House has a recording of the meeting.

“Clearly if there is some kind of a readout or a transcript from that meeting that means there is a tape,” Ms. Klobuchar said. “We need to get a hold of that” in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for his part, said in a Bloomberg interview that he hoped to see fewer distractions coming out of the White House.

Mr. Trump’s Tuesday morning tweets came after a late, tense night at the White House.

After the first report in the Post, White House aides compiled statements from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, national security aide Dina Powell and Mr. McMaster denying it.

But the statements were sent only to a single reporter, 90 minutes after the story had appeared. Others obtained the statements because the reporter agreed to distribute them through the White House press corps “pool” system.

Mr. McMaster then appeared outside the White House, read another brief statement and took no questions.

“There is nothing that the president takes more seriously than the safety of the American people,” he said.

He also said that he had been in the room and that he believed that public statements from people like him should outweigh allegations from anonymous sources.

Write to Louise Radnofsky at louise.radnofsky@wsj.com

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https://www.wsj.com/articles/donald-trump-defends-himself-over-reports-he-shared-classified-information-with-russia-1494935776

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BBC News

Trump defends ‘absolute right’ to share ‘facts’ with Russia

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US National Security Adviser McMaster challenged reporting of the Oval Office meeting

US President Donald Trump has defended his “absolute right” to share information with Russia, following a row over classified material.

Mr Trump tweeted that he had shared “facts pertaining to terrorism and airline safety” and wanted Russia to do more against so-called Islamic State.

He met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the Oval Office last week.

US media said Mr Trump had shared material that was passed on by a partner which had not given permission.

A report in the Washington Post said Mr Trump had confided top secret information relating to an IS plot thought to centre on the use of laptop computers on aircraft.

Mr Trump’s move is not illegal, as the US president has the authority to declassify information.

The action drew strong criticism from Democrats and a call for an explanation from his own Republican party.

What was the president’s defence?

In his tweets early on Tuesday, Mr Trump said: “As President 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 [IS] & terrorism.”

It is not clear if Mr Trump was acknowledging having shared intelligence secrets with the Russian officials, thus contradicting White House statements, or whether he was simply trying to explain what had been discussed.

The BBC’s Anthony Zurcher in Washington says this was a carefully constructed defence of the meeting, in which President Trump frames any revelation of intelligence information as a calculated move to advance US national security priorities.

After all, the controversy that swirled around the White House on Monday night was never legal, it was political, and this defence may be enough for Republicans to rally around, he adds.

What happened in the Oval Office?

In a conversation with the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak in the Oval Office, the president revealed details that could lead to the exposure of a source of information, officials told the Washington Post.

The intelligence disclosed came from a US ally and was considered too sensitive to share with other US allies, the paper reported.

.US President Donald Trump (L) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (2-L) during a meeting at the White House in Washington DC on 10 MayImage copyrightRUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRYImage captionThe comments were made during President Trump’s meeting last week in the Oval Office with the Russian foreign minister (second from left)

Others at the meeting realised the mistake and scrambled to “contain the damage” by informing the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA), says the Post.

The meeting came a day after Mr Trump fired his FBI chief, James Comey, sparking criticism that he had done so because the FBI was investigating his election campaign’s alleged Russian ties.

How did the White House initially respond?

National Security Adviser HR McMaster told reporters the story, “as reported”, was “false”.

“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 statement was echoed by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

But the Washington Post said this did not amount to a denial.

Speaking to the BBC, Post reporter Greg Jaffe said the story made it clear the president did not disclose sources or methods.

But he added: “Our story says that the nature of the information provided would have allowed the Russians to ‘reverse engineer’ to discover the sources and methods. He said so much that they could figure it out.”

Golden rule: Frank Gardner, BBC security correspondent

Despite the denials issued by the White House that any actual intelligence sources were revealed to the Russians, whatever was said in that Oval Office meeting was enough to alarm certain officials and, reportedly, to alert the CIA and NSA.

They in turn will have needed to warn the country that supplied the intelligence. There is a golden rule in the world of espionage that when one government supplies intelligence to another it must not be passed on to a third party without permission of the original supplier. The reason is simple: it could put the lives of their human informants at risk.

In this case it appears to relate to the discovery of plans by jihadists in Syria to devise a way of smuggling viable explosive devices on board a plane inside a laptop computer. Given the well-publicised ban on laptops in cabins on certain Middle Eastern routes, whoever revealed that information is unlikely to be still in place.

What has the reaction been?

  • “This is dangerous and reckless” – Dick Durbin, Senate’s second-highest ranked Democrat
  • “Mr President, this isn’t about your ‘rights’, but your responsibilities. You could jeopardise our sources, relationships and security” – Adam Schiff, top Democrat on House Intelligence Committee
  • “We have no way to know what was said, but protecting our nation’s secrets is paramount” – spokesperson for Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan
  • Congress could do with “a little less drama from the White House” – Mitch McConnell, Senate majority leader
  • “We generally do not want to have anything to do with this nonsense” – Dmitry Peskov, Kremlin spokesman
  • “If true, this is not going to instil confidence in allies already wary of sharing the most sensitive information” – senior Nato diplomat quoted by Reuters

Levels of US classification – from lowest to highest

  • Confidential: Information that reasonably could be expected to cause damage to the national security if disclosed to unauthorised sources. Most military personnel have this level of clearance
  • Secret: The same wording in the first sentence above, except it substitutes serious damage
  • Top Secret: Again, the same wording except to substitute exceptionally grave damage
  • Codeword: Adds a second level of clearance to Top Secret, so that only those cleared with the codeword can see it. Administered by the CIA. The material discussed by Mr Trump with the Russians was under a codeword, sources told the Washington Post.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39937258

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One Response to “Donald Trump Defends Himself Over Reports He Shared Classified Information With Russia”

  1. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

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