After denials, Trump defends giving classified info to Russia
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After denials, Trump defends giving classified info to Russia

While White House said president didn't leak anything, he tweets that he has the right to decide who he shares top-secret intel with

US President Donald Trump (left) meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, May 10, 2017. (Russian Foreign Ministry via AP)
US President Donald Trump (left) meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, May 10, 2017. (Russian Foreign Ministry via AP)

US President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Tuesday to defend his reported decision to give classified intelligence information to Russia, in a statement that appeared to contradict earlier denials by White House officials, who had said he had not let slip any secrets.

Trump said he has “the absolute right” to share information and had done so in order to encourage the Russians to “greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.”

Revelations in the Washington Post Monday said off-the-cuff disclosures by Trump to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Moscow’s ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, last Wednesday may have jeopardized an important source of intelligence on the Islamic State terror group.

According to US officials, Trump’s revelations endangered cooperation with a US ally that is reported to have access to the workings of the Islamic State terror group.

The White House said Tuesday that the first item on the day’s agenda for US President Donald Trump would be a phone call with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, fanning speculation that Jordan might be the US ally possibly compromised by the transmitted information.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the issue of Trump allegedly divulging state secrets to Russia was “nonsense” that was not worth confirming or denying.

“For us it is not an issue, it’s more nonsense,” Peskov said when asked about the Washington Post report.

On Monday the White House denied that Trump had revealed classified “sources or methods” to Russian officials, though it didn’t say anything about classified intelligence.

“The president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation,” National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, who participated in the meeting, told reporters.

“At no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed. And the president did not discuss any military operations that were not already publicly known,” he added. “There’s nothing that the president takes more seriously than the security of the American people. The story that came out tonight as reported is false.”

US National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster denies the report of US President Donald Trump revealing classified information to Russian officials in the Oval Office, during a statement to the press outside of the West Wing at the White House in Washington, DC, May 15, 2017. (AFP / SAUL LOEB)
US National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster denies the report of US President Donald Trump revealing classified information to Russian officials in the Oval Office, during a statement to the press outside of the West Wing at the White House in Washington, DC, May 15, 2017. (AFP / SAUL LOEB)

The information Trump disclosed, according to the Washington Post, was provided by an unnamed US partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement so secret, its details are unknown to some within the government. The officials said Trump’s revelations endangered cooperation with the US ally, which is reported to have access to the workings of the Islamic State.

“If that partner learned we’d given this to Russia without their knowledge or asking first, that is a blow to that relationship,” a US official told the Washington Post.

The New York Times, which later picked up the story, said the ally had previously shared information with the US only to see it leaked, and had warned US officials that it may cut off access to such information if it is shared too widely.

Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies,” another US official said.

The bombshell Washington Post report came as Moscow’s alleged interference in last year’s US presidential election was back in the spotlight following Trump’s shock firing of FBI chief James Comey, whose agency was investigating Russia’s possible collusion with aides to the Republican billionaire.

In January, the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper in Israel reported that US intelligence officials warned their Israeli counterparts that Trump’s ties to Russia could pose a security threat, and described a meeting between US and Israeli intelligence officials in which the Americans indicated to Israel they should be cautious in sharing information with Trump’s White House. The paper reported that the Americans assessed that Russia had some kind of leverage over Trump, but did not go into details.

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