WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump insisted Tuesday he had the right to share information with Russia related to terrorism and other issues, his first public response to the revelation he disclosed classified information at an Oval Office meeting last week.
“As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. 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,” he tweeted.
Trump shared highly classified information with the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador to the US in a White House meeting last week, The Washington Post first reported Monday.
Trump’s tweets Tuesday notably lack any mention of whether the information he shared was classified.
But two former officials knowledgeable of the situation confirmed to CNN that the main points of the Post story are accurate: The President shared classified information with the Russian foreign minister.
Trump did not directly reveal the source of the information, but intelligence officials told CNN that there is concern that Russia will be able to figure out the highly sensitive source.
The White House dismissed the report Monday night, issuing several statements before sending H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser who was a part of the meeting, before White House reporters.
“At no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed and the President did not disclose any military operations that weren’t already publicly known,” McMaster said. “I was in the room. It didn’t happen.”
Early responses to the bombshell report indicate that, if true, handling sensitive details in this manner would have broad implications on US partnerships around the world and could place the lives of agents in the field at risk.
“Never before have I witnessed a senior government official so carelessly threaten an intelligence-sharing relationship,” a former senior intelligence official told CNN.
Mark Hertling, a national security, intelligence and terrorism analyst for CNN, said giving Russia information has not historically led to them being forthcoming with the United States.
“I’m concerned about the fact that the President feels like he has to give something to Russia first when there have been repeated instances of Russia being sanctioned in Ukraine, committing war crimes in Syria and conducting operations that are contrary to what we’d like to believe are freedom of operations and sovereignties of different nations,” he said Tuesday on CNN’s “New Day.” “This confuses me to no end.”
Putin requested meeting
The Wednesday meeting between Trump, Lavrov and Kislyak had already raised alarm bells in Washington, primarily because it came one day after Trump decided to fire FBI Director James Comey while the bureau investigated his campaign’s alleged ties to Russia.
The meeting, a personal request from Russian President Vladimir Putin — who asked that they meet when he spoke with Trump earlier this month — was supposed to remain behind closed doors without any media coverage. But a photographer from Russian state-media Tass attended the meeting and took photos of a laughing Trump with Lavrov and Kislyak.
No US media were allowed into the meeting.
Though an angry White House official told CNN they felt “tricked” by the Russians, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said “proper protocol was followed” by not allowing media into the meeting.
Throughout the 2016 campaign, Trump slammed Hillary Clinton for storing classified information on her private email server.
“Crooked Hillary Clinton and her team ‘were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information,’ Trump tweeted in July. “Not fit!”