Thu | Nov 23, 2017

Trump talk with Russians 'wholly appropriate,' adviser says

Published:Wednesday | May 17, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky, joined by Sen John Barrasso, R-Wyo (left), gestures while meeting with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington yesterday to discuss President Donald Trump reportedly sharing classified information with two Russian diplomats during a meeting in the Oval Office.

WASHINGTON (AP):

The White House yesterday defended President Donald Trump's disclosure of classified information to senior Russian officials as "wholly appropriate," as officials tried to beat back criticism from fellow Republicans and concerns from international allies.

One day after officials declared that reports about Trump's discussions with the Russians were false, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said the president had been engaging in "routine sharing of information" with foreign leaders.

Trump himself claimed the authority 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, as published reports have said and as a US official told The Associated Press. The official said the information Trump divulged came from a US intelligence partner.

The revelations sent a White House accustomed to chaos reeling anew and drew rare, serious criticism of the president from some Republicans. His action raised fresh questions about his handling of classified information and his dealings with Russia, which is widely considered an adversary by many US officials and Western allies.

A senior US official told The Associated Press that 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 Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. 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 said that Trump boasted about his access to classified intelligence in last week's meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak. An excerpt from 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."

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. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorised to speak publicly, would not say which country's intelligence was divulged.