May 16 (UPI) — President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he had the “absolute right” to share information with Russia as part of his effort in the global battle against terrorism.
Trump’s comments came in the wake of reports that he revealed highly classified intelligence to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during a White House meeting last week.
Though he did not reveal what information he shared, which would help determine whether it was classified, Trump on Twitter referenced the reports.
“As president I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining … to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS terrorism,” Trump tweeted, using an alternate name for the Islamic State.
News outlets including The New York Times, CNN and The Washington Post reported that Trump’s disclosures jeopardized intelligence on the Islamic State, adding that a Middle Eastern ally provided the information with the understanding that it would not be shared with other countries without permission.
The Washington Post reported that Trump shared “code-word information” — one of the highest classification levels — about threats from Islamic State involving laptops aboard airliners.
In reaction, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Tuesday told her Facebook followers that they “don’t need to read” U.S. newspapers because “it is not only unhealthy, but dangerous.”
The White House denied the reports on Monday.
Gen. H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, told reporters “at no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed … I was in the room. It did not happen.”
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, on Tuesday said Trump should disclose what information the U.S. president shared with the Russian diplomats to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, of which she is a member.
“Although the president has the legal authority to disclose classified information, it would be very troubling if he did share such sensitive reporting with the Russians. The Senate Intelligence Committee should be briefed on this important issue immediately,” Collins said in a statement.
Collins said that while there are “conflicting reports” on what occurred, “the disclosure of highly classified information has the potential to jeopardize sources and to discourage our allies from sharing future information vital to our security.”