White House denies president shared highly classified information with Russians
Embattled US President Donald Trump faced explosive allegations yesterday that he divulged top-secret intelligence to Russian diplomats in the Oval Office, a charge the White House scrambled to rebut.
The Washington Post reported late on Monday that Trump revealed highly classified information on the Islamic State group during a meeting last week with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Moscow’s man in Washington, Sergey Kislyak.
The intelligence reportedly came from a US ally which did not authorise Washington to share it with Moscow.
National Security Advisor HR McMas- ter denied the president had revealed intelligence sources or methods, but acknowledged that Trump and Lavrov “reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation”.
In a tweet yesterday, Trump insisted he had the right to share facts with Russia, saying he acted to help Moscow in its fight against Isis and terrorism.
“As president I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled WH meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety,” he wrote.
In his tweet, Trump wrote that he was motivated by “humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism”.
The Post, citing unnamed officials, said Trump went off script during the meeting, describing details about an Islamic State terror threat related to the use of laptop computers on aeroplanes, revealing the city where the information was gathered.
The Trump administration recently barred the use of laptops in the passenger cabin from several countries in the Middle East and is mulling the expansion of that ban to cover jets originating in Europe.
“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,” McMaster said, without elaborating on which elements were wrong.
“Two other senior officials who were present, including the secretary of state, remember the meeting the same way and have said so.
“Their on-the- record accounts should outweigh those of anonymous sources. I was in the room. “It didn’t happen.” McMaster earlier refused to answer questions from a group of journalists gathered in the West Wing, saying “this is the last place I wanted to be”, before leaving.
The revelations are the latest in a wave of crises to hit the White House, which late on Monday was in a state of shock, with aides frantically trying to put out the fire and determine the source of such damaging leaks.
Since coming to office in January, Trump has lurched from crisis to crisis, lampooning the intelligence services, law enforcement and the media along the way.
Last week, Trump threw his administration into turmoil by taking the almost unprecedented step of firing his FBI director, James Comey.
Comey had been overseeing investigations into possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia to skew the last year’s election.
The meeting came a day after that firing, and was already controversial in itself.