President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Tuesday morning to defend sharing “facts” with Russian officials after the Washington Post reported that he had revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a meeting at the White House last week.
The Washington Post reported Monday that Trump divulged details to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak last week of a threat by the Islamic State terrorist group “related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft.” Trump purportedly boasted to the Russian diplomats about the “great intel” he had about the threat.
The Post reported:
Trump went on to discuss aspects of the threat that the United States learned only through the espionage capabilities of a key partner. He did not reveal the specific intelligence-gathering method, but he described how the Islamic State was pursuing elements of a specific plot and how much harm such an attack could cause under varying circumstances. Most alarmingly, officials said, Trump revealed the city in the Islamic State’s territory where the U.S. intelligence partner detected the threat.
An unnamed U.S. official told the Post that Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”
The Post noted that the president has “broad authority” to declassify information, “making it unlikely that his disclosures broke the law.”
National security adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters on Monday that Post’s story “as reported is false”:
The president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation. At no time, at no time, were intelligent sources or methods discussed. And the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known. Two other senior officials who were present, including the Secretary of State, remember the meeting the same way and have said so. Their on the record accounts should outweigh anonymous sources. And I was in the room. It didn't happen.
On Tuesday morning, Trump defended himself on Twitter, arguing that he has “the absolute right” to share “facts” with the Russians and that he did so as part of his anti-terror efforts. The president noted that he hoped the information would help get Russia to "greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism."
Later Tuesday, Trump reiterated his grievances with “leakers” in the intelligence community and reminded Americans that he has tasked members of his administration with finding the leakers.