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Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Trump admits sharing information with Russia

Trump admits sharing information with Russia

US President Donald Trump on Twitter acknowledged Tuesday that he shared information with top Russian envoys at an Oval Office meeting last week, but argued that it was his “absolute right” to do so, despite an outcry about potentially leaking sensitive data.

His early morning tweet appeared to fly in the face of repeated White House denials of a Washington Post report on Monday.

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The newspaper also reported that Trump revealed highly classified information about the Islamic State terrorist group during his talks with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador to the US on May 10, citing current and former administration officials.

Trump called it his “absolute right” to provide the Russians with facts that could help in the fight against terrorism.

“As president, I wanted to share with Russia at an openly scheduled White House meeting which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining … to terrorism and airline flight safety,” Trump wrote

Trump did not respond to repeated questions by reporters about whether he had shared classified information, but called the talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov “very, very successful.”

Trump said the talks focused on cooperation in fighting terrorism, declaring “we’re gonna have a lot of great success over the next coming years.”

National Security Advisor HR McMaster maintained later Tuesday that Trump did not compromise any intelligence sources or methods and his discussions with Russian officials last week were “appropriate.”

However, McMaster would not discuss whether Trump had revealed classified information or not, but said he is not concerned that Trump’s conversation would prompt the source to stop sharing intelligence.

The New York Times reported that Israel was the source of the intelligence, quoting a current and a former US official familiar with how the United States obtained the information. Neither is identified.

The White House would not say that Israel was the source, but spokesman Sean Spicer did stress the importance of the US-Israeli alliance during a news conference.

“We appreciate the strong relationship that we have with Israel with respect to intelligence sharing, and hopefully can continue to grow that bond,” Spicer said, pointing to remarks by Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer.

Dermer had told the Times that Israel had “full confidence in our intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States and looks forward to deepening that relationship ahead under President Trump.”

Trump is scheduled to visit Israel during his first trip abroad as president starting later this week.

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