President Donald Trump has appeared to confirm a Washington Post report that said he disclosed highly classified intelligence with Russian officials, writing on Twitter on Tuesday May 16th that he “wanted to share with Russia.”
“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,” Trump tweeted. “Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.”
Current and former anonymous US officials told The Post that Trump’s disclosures to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak jeopardized a key source of intelligence about the Islamic State terrorist group, as the source had not given the US permission to share the intelligence with Russia.
Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies,” one official told The Post.
The president tried to move the focus to government leaks, tweeting, “I have been asking Director Comey & others, from the beginning of my administration, to find the LEAKERS in the intelligence community.”
CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller reported that White House spokesman Mike Anton “emphatically” denied that Trump’s tweets confirmed any disclosure of classified material to Russia.
Trump’s statement seemed to contradict previous caveated White House denials of The Post’s story.
White House officials pushed back against the report on Monday night, with the deputy national security adviser, Dina Powell, saying bluntly the “story is false.”
The national security adviser, H.R. McMaster — who was part of the meeting with the Russian officials — also criticized the report.
“There is nothing that the president takes more seriously than the security of the American people,” McMaster said in a televised statement. “The story that came out tonight as reported is false.”
“I was in the room — it didn’t happen,” McMaster said.
Russia also denied reports that Trump revealed classified information, according to The Associated Press. Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, described the reports on Facebook as “yet another fake.”
As Trump may have hinted at in his tweet, the president does have the right to declassify information and share classified information.