SOCHI: Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that his US counterpart had not divulged any secrets during a meeting in Washington with Russian officials and offered to prove it by supplying Congress with a transcript.
But a leading US Republican politician said he would have little faith in any notes Putin might supply.
Two US officials had said on Monday that Trump disclosed classified information about a planned operation by the militant Islamic State (IS) group to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov when they met last week, plunging the White House into a fresh controversy just four months into Trump’s tenure.
Trump, whose administration has been dogged by allegations that Russia helped him win the White House and that he and his allies are too cosy with Moscow, has defended his decision to discuss intelligence with the Russians after media reports of the meeting alarmed some US and foreign politicians.
President Putin deployed his trademark sarcasm on Wednesday to make clear he thought the accusation that Trump had divulged secrets absurd.
“I spoke to him [Lavrov] today,” a smiling Putin told a news conference with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.
“I’ll be forced to issue him [Lavrov] with a reprimand because he did not share these secrets with us. Not with me, nor with representatives of Russia’s intelligence services. It was very bad of him.”
Putin, who still hopes Moscow can repair battered ties with the United States despite a deepening political scandal in the United States related to Trump’s purported Russia ties, said Moscow had rated Lavrov’s meeting with Trump highly.
If the Trump administration deemed it appropriate, Putin said Russia could hand over a transcript of Trump’s meeting with Lavrov to US lawmakers to reassure them that no secrets were revealed.
A Kremlin aide, Yuri Ushakov, later told reporters that Moscow had a written record of the conversation, not an audio recording.
US Republican Senator Marco Rubio was unimpressed with Putin’s offer and alluded to alleged Russian hacking of Democratic groups during the US presidential election.
“I wouldn’t put much credibility into whatever Putin’s notes are,” Rubio said on Fox News. “And if it comes in an email, I wouldn’t click on the attachment.”
Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, which is among those probing alleged Russian interference in last year’s US presidential election, called Putin’s offer “quite amusing”.
“The last person Trump needs to vouch for him right now is Vladimir Putin,” Schiff said in an interview with CBS News. “If they want to send something, you know, hats off. Send it our way ... Its credibility would be less than zero.”
Russia has repeatedly denied interfering in the US election.
In Washington, Republican and Democratic lawmakers said they wanted to see the Comey memo. US Representative Adam Kinzinger joined a small but growing number of Republican lawmakers who have said they would back some sort of independent investigation into Russia’s role in last year’s election.
“If in fact what was in the memo is true, it’s very concerning and we need to get to the bottom of that,” Kinzinger said on CNN.
Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2017