Trump aides push back

The Daily Observer - - WORLD NEWS -

WASH­ING­TON — The White House dis­puted a re­port Tues­day that U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump asked for­mer FBI di­rec­tor James Comey to shut down an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into ousted na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Michael Flynn.

The New York Times re­ported that Trump made the re­quest dur­ing a Fe­bru­ary Oval Of­fice meet­ing. The newspaper cited a memo Comey wrote shortly af­ter the con­ver­sa­tion.

Flynn re­signed the day be­fore the Feb. 14 meet­ing, af­ter it was revealed he ap­par­ently had lied about the na­ture of his contacts with Rus­sia’s am­bas­sador.

The Times said Trump told Comey, “I hope you can let this go.”

The White House de­nied the re­port.

“While the pres­i­dent has re­peat­edly ex­pressed his view that Gen­eral Flynn is a de­cent man who served and pro­tected our coun­try, the pres­i­dent has never asked Mr. Comey or any­one else to end any in­ves­ti­ga­tion, in­clud­ing any in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­volv­ing Gen­eral Flynn,” the White House said in a state­ment.

Trump abruptly fired Comey last week, say­ing he did so based on his very pub­lic han­dling of the Hil­lary Clin­ton e-mail probe.

The Jus­tice De­part­ment de­clined to comment.

Ac­cord­ing to the Times, Comey wrote in the memo that Trump told him Flynn had done noth­ing wrong. But Comey did not say any­thing to Trump about lim­it­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, re­ply­ing, “I agree he is a good guy.”

Mean­while, push­ing back against al­le­ga­tions of dam­ag­ing in­tel­li­gence dis­clo­sures, U.S. Trump’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser in­sisted Tues­day that Trump’s rev­e­la­tions to Rus­sian of­fi­cials about ac­tiv­i­ties by Is­lamic State were “wholly ap­pro­pri­ate” and amounted to a rou­tine shar­ing of in­for­ma­tion.

H.R. McMaster added that none of the U.S. of­fi­cials present for the pres­i­dent’s Oval Of­fice meet­ing with the Rus­sian for­eign min­is­ter last week “felt in any way that that con­ver­sa­tion was in­ap­pro­pri­ate.”

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 ISIS, as pub­lished re­ports have said and as a U.S. of­fi­cial said.

McMaster, in a White House brief­ing, said: “In the con­text of that dis­cus­sion, what the pres­i­dent dis­cussed with the for­eign min­is­ter was wholly ap­pro­pri­ate to that con­ver­sa­tion and is con­sis­tent with the rou­tine shar­ing of in­for­ma­tion be­tween the pres­i­dent and any lead­ers with whom he is en­gaged.”

The White House has not ex­pressly de­nied that clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion was dis­closed in the Oval Of­fice meet­ing be­tween Trump and Rus­sian diplo­mats last week. The Krem­lin dis­missed the re­ports as “com­plete non­sense.”

The news re­ver­ber­ated around the world as coun­tries started sec­ond-guess­ing their own in­tel­li­gence-shar­ing agree­ments with the U.S. A se­nior Euro­pean in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial said his coun­try might stop shar­ing in­for­ma­tion with the U.S. 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.

On Capi­tol Hill, Democrats and Repub­li­cans alike ex­pressed con­cern about the pres­i­dent’s dis­clo­sures. Repub­li­can Sen. John McCain called the re­ports “deeply dis­turb­ing” and said they could af­fect the will­ing­ness of U.S. al­lies and part­ners to share in­tel­li­gence with the U.S. Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell called the in­tel­li­gence up­roar a dis­trac­tion from GOP pri­or­i­ties such as tax re­form and re­plac­ing the health care law.

“I think we could do with a lit­tle less drama from the White House on a lot of things so that we can fo­cus on our agenda,” he told Bloomberg Busi­ness.

Doug An­dres, a spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, said the speaker was look­ing for “a full ex­pla­na­tion of the facts from the ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer called for Congress to have im­me­di­ate ac­cess to a tran­script of Trump’s meet­ing with the Russians, say­ing that if Trump re­fuses, Amer­i­cans will doubt that their pres­i­dent is ca­pa­ble of safe­guard­ing crit­i­cal se­crets.

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 Rus­sian Am­bas­sador Sergey Kislyak, a se­nior U.S of­fi­cial said. 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.


Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser H. R. McMaster, speak­ing dur­ing a press brief­ing at the White House on Tues­day, de­nied that U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump had caused a “lapse in na­tional se­cu­rity” fol­low­ing re­ports he dis­closed clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion about Is­lamic State to Rus­sian of­fi­cials.

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