White House defends Trump's 'wholly appropriate' discussion with Russians

Remigio Civitarese
Mag 17, 2017

White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters on Tuesday that he can't comment on whether the Israelis were the source of the information Trump reportedly shared with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak in an Oval Office meeting last week.

"There's nothing the president takes more seriously than the security of the American people".

Trump's national security adviser also insisted Tuesday the story was no big deal.

One day after officials declared that reports about Mr Trump's discussions with the Russians were false, national security adviser HR McMaster said the president had been engaging in "routine sharing of information" with foreign leaders.

Still, 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 officials said Trump's disclosures jeopardised a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.

"They may have agents in the field using a sensitive collection system". But he also noted that the president talked about "common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation". But McMaster tells reporters that the information was available through "open-source reporting".

Chrystia Freeland and Harjit Sajjan dined with their US counterparts for foreign affairs and defence - Rex Tillerson and James Mattis.

"What the president shared was wholly appropriate", McMaster said.

Powell flatly said: "This story is false".

"The president was emphasizing we have some common interests here".

The intelligence reportedly came from a United States ally that did not authorise Washington to share it with Moscow. Still, it will only heighten Trump's strained relations with intelligence workers and former officials, who view Russian Federation as an adversary.

"But I will say this: we have a very long-standing and very successful relationship with our Five Eyes allies", Goodale told reporters, referring to the western security and intelligence alliance that includes Canada and the USA, along with Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

The new controversy left White House staffers, already under siege following last week's botched handling of FBI Director James Comey's firing, on edge. Trump abruptly fired Comey, ousting the nation's top law enforcement official in the midst of an investigation into whether Trump's campaign had ties to Russia's election meddling.

Although Americans may not feel the repercussions of foreign intelligence, Jervis says the sharing of classified material is vital for domestic security, particularly when it comes to the threat of ISIS.

None of that explains why the White House was reaching out to the CIA and National Security Agency to let them know what the president had revealed.

How rattled Israeli intelligence might be by the latest reports is the big question.

Several Republicans expressed concern Tuesday about this drama-a-day White House.

The NSA was also at the heart of the Edward Snowden drama, which revealed that the US spied on world leaders, including close allies. "But the chaos that is being created by the lack of discipline - it's creating an environment that I think makes - it creates a worrisome environment". McMaster on Tuesday declined to confirm that detail, but said if it did occur, it was out of "an overabundance of caution". Joe Manchin of West Virginia said he doesn't even tell his own staff and colleagues things he hears on the Senate intelligence committee. "If the counterpart says, 'Don't share, ' you don't share".

But the president admitted the basic details on Twitter - and he said it was no big deal. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., flank a large photograph held up that shows and compares Inauguration crowd sizes in 2009 and 2017 as Merkley questions Budget Director-designate Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017, at Mulvaney's confirmation hearing before the committee.

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