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Trump confirms sharing secret information with Russian officials

Updated May 17, 2017 07:18am

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TRUMP’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster initially described news reports about the information leak as false.—Reuters
TRUMP’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster initially described news reports about the information leak as false.—Reuters

WASHINGTON: US Presi­dent Donald Trump confirmed on Tuesday that he had divulged highly classified information to two top Russian visitors to the White House last week, but said he had the right to do so.

The admission prompted a call from senior Republican leaders to take immediate steps to end the chaos that characterised the Trump White House.

Read: Russian baby in Trump’s bathtub

“As president I wanted to share with Russia which I have the absolute right to do,” Mr Trump tweeted on Tues­day, a day after the New York Times and Washington Post reported that he had shared highly classified information with the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador to the US in a White House meeting last week.

Mr Trump said he shared the information at “an openly scheduled W.H. meeting” and these were “facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety”. He said he decided to do so for “humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS [the militant Islamic State group or IS] and terrorism”.

The US media reported that Mr Trump did not directly reveal the source of the information, but gave enough information for Russia to figure out the highly sensitive source. This, the reports warned, had compromised US intelligence operatives who gathered the information about how IS planned to use laptops as bombs to blow up airlines.

As some reports warned that the president’s mistake could also endanger the lives of these intelligence operatives, a senior Republican lawmaker urged the White House to get its act together.

Senator Bob Corker, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, war­ned that the White House was “in a downward spiral right now” and staff “have got to figure out a way to come to grips with all that’s happening”.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned that the chaos at the White House could hurt the Repu­blican plans for exploiting congressional majorities for doing important legislation.

“I think we could do with a little less drama from the White House,” McConnell said on Bloomberg Television. “We could focus on our agenda, which is the regulations, tax reform, repealing and replacing Obamacare.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, also Republican, did not heed to calls to defend the president and demanded more information to do so.

Mr Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, told reporters at the White House that the president did not know where the information he shared with Russian officials had originated.

“The president wasn’t even aware where this information came from. He wasn’t briefed on the source or method of the information either,” he said.

“What was shared was wholly appropriate given the purpose of that conversation and the purpose of what the president was trying to achieve through that meeting.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a statement, acknowledging that Mr Trump had in fact discussed specific threats in the Oval Office meeting.

“During President Trump’s meeting with Foreign Minister [Sergei] Lavrov, a broad range of subjects were discussed among which were common efforts and threats regarding counterterrorism,” Mr Tillerson said.

“During that exchange the nature of specific threats were discussed, but they did not discuss sources, methods or military operations.”

On Monday evening, when the Washington Post broke the story, senior White House aides rejected it as incorrect. “I was in the room. It didn’t happen,” said Mr McMaster. “This story is false,” added Dina Powell, his deputy.

But Mr Trump embarrassed his own team when he tweeted that he had shared that piece of information with the Russians because as president he had the right to do so.

And instead of addressing the furore the disclosure caused, the president asked his aides to figure out who leaked the information to the media. “I have been asking [sacked FBI] director [James] Comey and others, from the beginning of my administration, to find the leakers in the intelligence community,” he tweeted.

Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2017

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Comments (12) Closed



karachi wally May 17, 2017 07:53am

This is just a start, Trump is going to be lot more chaotic in coming weeks and months.

smash May 17, 2017 08:11am

Ok. Enough is enough. This lunatic has to go. Right now

Chaos May 17, 2017 08:16am

The information shared was about ISIS . The Israeli intelligence blew the cover about Trump sharing the information to Russians, this helped the Russians fight more effictively against the ISIS. Trump and the Russians both acted in a sincere manner Guess who complains, the creator of ISIS

KB May 17, 2017 09:13am

That's honest and brave admitting what he did. Very unlike Nawaz Shariff

ABE May 17, 2017 09:21am

End of Trump is coming sooner than we expected.

The series of scandals surround Trump team are already worse than Watergate Scandal which ousted Nixon. Trump behaved like a spoiled unruly school boy and bit more than he can chew by taking on the intelligence community in the US. He is a laughing stock of the world already. Yet, you will soon see the ignorant, opportunistic Arabs rolling out the red-carpet to welcome him in Saudi Arabia, to honor him and make him feel like a real king - much more than he can expect at home or anywhere else in the world these days. He will be out soon.

All the governments counting on him for some sort of deal or favors are in for a rude surprise.

pure stream May 17, 2017 09:27am

The whole Trump-Russia merry making drama seems so superficial.Why would the US president be so naive to tell her country's long time rival some so called classified info??Extraordinary leaks and rumors.Guess Trump is rightly being used to direct the film towards desired directions citing him unpredictable and extra ordinary.

Falcon1 May 17, 2017 09:52am

@pure stream - You must be the lonely voice out there who thinks Trump is innocent and all the hype and hysteria out there is all just hot air, jealous democrats and everyone predicting his doom is wrong?

Well, you're in good company than. Only a very small minority predicted Trump will win. But now the same people are also predicting Trump will soon be out. See the link below:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4419768/Prof-predicted-Trump-win-says-ll-impeached.html

anonymousee May 17, 2017 09:53am

All the indians celebrating Trump's win must be in shame now.

Mahmood May 17, 2017 10:29am

It all smacks of attempts at cover-up, backtracking, concealment of the truth and misleading the US public.

Trump administration was not expected to be effective and unworthy of the White House to start with. With mounting scandals and blunders, it does not take a genius to see how quickly it will be out. I am betting by the end of the 2017, we will see end of Trump's juvenile administration.

faisal May 17, 2017 12:34pm

People of USA selected Trump to lead them so why all the fuss. He wants good relations with Russia so why is everyone against it. It would be good for the world to have normal relations between USA Russian and other countries in the world for peace. The world has seen enough wars and conflicts. Lets all work on peace.

ABE May 17, 2017 08:29pm

@faisal You obviously have not followed the legacy of Trump's rise to the White House and the controversy surrounding Russian interference in the US Elections. So no point in you even asking 'why' at the 11th hour, and nearly a year late!

syedchaudhrygangadinkhan May 19, 2017 08:26pm

As a President of the US, Trump can share any information with any one.