Washington: US President Donald Trump insisted on Tuesday he had the right to share information with Russia related to terrorism and other issues, his first public response to the revelation that he disclosed classified information at an Oval Office meeting last week.
The President made his first statement on Twitter following a series of denials from White House officials.
“…I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled White House meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety, humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism,” he tweeted.
The Washington Post reported on Monday that the President shared intelligence from a US ally in a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
The Post, citing unnamed officials, also reported that Trump went off script during the meeting, describing details about an Islamic State group terror threat related to the use of laptop computers on airplanes, revealing the city where the information was gathered.
The Trump administration immediately rejected the claims as “false”.
“I was in the room, it didn’t happen,” H.R. McMaster, Trump’s National Security Adviser, said on Monday.
“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.
However, on Tuesday Trump took to Twitter to defend his actions, appearing to contradict the denials that he had shared intelligence with the Russian officials.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the issue was not worth confirming or denying, calling it “nonsense”.
“For us it is not an issue, it’s more nonsense,” Peskov said when asked about the Washington Post report.
Dick Durbin, a leading Democratic Senator, said Trump’s conduct was “dangerous” and “reckless”.
Some Republicans expressed shock at the development, with Senator Bob Corker stating that the Trump White House “has got to do something soon to bring itself under control and order”.
“Obviously they’re in a downward spiral right now and they’ve got to figure out a way to come to grips with all that’s happening,” Corker said.
The last week 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 the President campaign’s alleged ties to Russia.
The meeting, a personal request from Russian President Vladimir Putin, was supposed to remain behind closed doors without any media coverage.
But a photographer from a Russian state-media 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.