Tuesday, 25 July, 2017

President Trump defends sharing 'facts' with Russia for 'humanitarian reasons'

Richard Nixon making a fist during a press conference Ellsworth Davis The Washington Post via Getty
Melinda Barton | 19 May, 2017, 05:17

Trump hosted Lavrov, Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak and others in the Oval Office last Wednesday for a closed-door meeting that a White House spokeswoman said was previously scheduled. Israel's ambassador issued a statement saying Israel still has full confidence in its intelligence sharing relationship with the U.S. The outlet also reported that other members have said they did not get a briefing.

Mr Trump, who had apparently "spontaneously" chose to share the information with Russian Federation, said he believed his actions would help in the fight against terrorism.

"I think we could do with a little less drama from the White House on a lot of things so that we can focus on our agenda", he told Bloomberg Business.

According to officials, the information had been supplied by a USA ally - identified by some media outlets as Israel - in the fight against the militant group. While Trump is correct to say he has an "absolute right" to share any information he wants, experts say that strategy can be risky - especially because allies could lose their trust in the USA ability to keep secrets and might stop sharing valuable intelligence with their American counterparts.

In response to that, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Monday, "US President Donald Trump did not discuss sources, methods or military operations in his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov".

They're commenting on the major news report from the Washington Post claiming the president shared highly classified information with Russian officials.

When he was pressed about when the decision was made to share the information - reportedly details of an Isis threat to use explosives in laptops - he said: "He made the decision in the context of the conversation, which was wholly appropriate".

On Monday, Mr McMaster told reporters: "The president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries including threats to civil aviation". He also declined to say whether the White House would share transcripts of Trump's meeting with Lavrov with politicians who have asked for them.

Sources say some of the information revealed was partly from Israeli intelligence.

The White House pushed back, calling the story "false" and noting that Trump had not mentioned sources and methods to collect the information.

According to sources cited in the report, that intelligence came from a U.S. ally who had not authorised Washington to pass it on to Moscow.

The country supplying the intelligence to the United States was identified in the Post story only as "an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State".

Trump will visit Israel next week as part of his first overseas trip as president.

The President has since come forward to tweet that he has the "absolute right" to share information as he see appropriate, and that his meeting with Russian Federation was a "very, very successful meeting".

Last week, Trump threw his administration into turmoil by taking the nearly unprecedented step of firing his Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey. "He wasn't briefed on the source".

White House press secretary Sean Spicer cast the problem as unauthorized leaking of sensitive or classified information about the meeting as "frankly unsafe".