Trump talk with Russians ‘wholly ap­pro­pri­ate,’ ad­viser says

Cape Breton Post - - World -

The White House on Tues­day de­fended Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s dis­clo­sure of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion to se­nior Rus­sian of­fi­cials as “wholly ap­pro­pri­ate,’’ as of­fi­cials tried to beat back criticism from fel­low Repub­li­cans and con­cerns from in­ter­na­tional al­lies.

One day af­ter of­fi­cials de­clared that re­ports about Trump’s dis­cus­sions with the Russians were false, Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser H.R. McMaster said the pres­i­dent had been en­gag­ing in “rou­tine shar­ing of in­for­ma­tion’’ with for­eign lead­ers.

Trump him­self claimed the au­thor­ity to share “facts per­tain­ing to ter­ror­ism’’ and air­line safety with Rus­sia, say­ing in a pair of tweets he has “an ab­so­lute right’’ as pres­i­dent to do so. Trump’s tweets did not say whether he revealed clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion about the Is­lamic State, as pub­lished re­ports have said and as a U.S. of­fi­cial told The As­so­ci­ated Press. The of­fi­cial said the in­for­ma­tion Trump di­vulged came from a U.S. in­tel­li­gence part­ner.

The rev­e­la­tions sent a White House ac­cus­tomed to chaos reel­ing anew and drew rare se­ri­ous criticism of the pres­i­dent from some Repub­li­cans. His action raised fresh ques­tions about his han­dling of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion and his deal­ings with Rus­sia, which is widely con­sid­ered an ad­ver­sary by many U.S. of­fi­cials and West­ern al­lies.

A se­nior U.S. of­fi­cial told AP that Trump shared de­tails about an Is­lamic State ter­ror threat re­lated to the use of lap­top com­put­ers on air­craft with Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergey Lavrov and Am­bas­sador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. The clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion had been shared with the pres­i­dent by an ally, vi­o­lat­ing the con­fi­den­tial­ity of an in­tel­li­gence-shar­ing agree­ment with that coun­try, the of­fi­cial said.

The of­fi­cial said that Trump boasted about his ac­cess to clas­si­fied in­tel­li­gence in last week’s meet­ing with Lavrov and Kislyak. An ex­cerpt from an of­fi­cial tran­script of the meet­ing re­veals that Trump told them, “I get great in­tel. I have peo­ple brief me on great in­tel ev­ery day.’’

Trump later was in­formed that he had bro­ken pro­to­col and White House of­fi­cials placed calls to the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency and the CIA look­ing to min­i­mize any dam­age. The of­fi­cial, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause the of­fi­cial was not au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly, would not say which coun­try’s in­tel­li­gence was di­vulged.

As pres­i­dent, Trump has the abil­ity to dis­close clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion largely as he chooses. Yet his de­ci­sion to dis­cuss an ally’s in­for­ma­tion on the Is­lamic State with other coun­tries could dam­age his stand­ing with world lead­ers and lead some coun­tries to start sec­ond-guess­ing their own in­tel­li­gence-shar­ing agree­ments with the U.S.

A se­nior Euro­pean in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial told the AP his coun­try might stop shar­ing in­for­ma­tion with the United States if it con­firms that Trump shared clas­si­fied de­tails with Rus­sian of­fi­cials. Such shar­ing “could be a risk for our sources,’’ the of­fi­cial said. The of­fi­cial spoke only on con­di­tion that nei­ther he nor his coun­try be iden­ti­fied, be­cause he was not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss the mat­ter pub­licly.

AP PHOTO

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., joined by Sen. John Bar­rasso, R-Wyo., left, and Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell of Ky., right, re­acts to ques­tions from re­porters about Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump re­port­edly shar­ing clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion with two Rus­sian diplo­mats dur­ing a meet­ing in the Oval Of­fice, Tues­day, on Capi­tol Hill in Wash­ing­ton.

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