Trump defends right to share '˜terrorism facts' with Russians

President Donald Trump has defended his right 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.

Donald Trump with Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office. Picture: AP
Donald Trump with Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office. Picture: AP

Mr Trump’s tweets did not say whether he revealed classified information about the Islamic State group, as published reports have said and as an official said on Tuesday.

The White House has not denied that classified information was disclosed in last Wednesday’s meeting between Mr Trump and Russian diplomats.

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In a pair of tweets, the president responded to a firestorm of criticism triggered by the reports. “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. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against Isis & terrorism.”

Mr Trump shared details about an IS terror threat related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian 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 would not say which country’s intelligence was divulged.

Mr 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.

Russia’s foreign ministry spokesman denied the report. Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, on Facebook yesterday described the reports as “yet another fake.”

The CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence have declined to comment.

The US official said Mr Trump boasted about his access to classified intelligence in last week’s meeting with Mr Lavrov and Mr Kislyak. An excerpt to an official transcript of the meeting reveals that Mr Trump told them, “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day,” he said. 
Mr Kislyak has been a central player in the snowballing controversy surrounding possible coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia’s election meddling.

The revelations drew strong condemnation from Democrats and a rare rebuke of the president from some Republican politicians.

White House officials denounced the report, saying the president did not disclose intelligence sources or methods to the Russians.

“The president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries including threats to civil aviation,” said HR McMaster, Mr Trump’s national security adviser. “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.”