US President Donald Trump came under pressure from lawmakers Tuesday to explain why he shared highly sensitive intelligence information with senior Russian officials at a meeting in the Oval Office last week, Reuters reports.
Trump is said to have discussed intelligence about Islamic State with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak at a meeting last Wednesday.
According to officials, the information had been supplied by a US ally — identified by some media outlets as Israel — in the fight against the militant group.
The disclosure rocked the administration as it struggled to move past the backlash over Trump’s abrupt firing on May 9 of FBI Director James Comey, whose agency was investigating potential ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked the White House for more information about reports that Trump gave intelligence information to the Russians, a spokeswoman for the panel said.
Congressional investigators are expected to seek copies of any notes taken during the meeting, a source told Reuters.
Trump said on Twitter on Tuesday he had an “absolute right” to share facts with Russia so that it can be more active in fighting Islamic State militants.
US Representative Barbara Comstock, a Republican, called for a closed-door briefing for lawmakers.
“We need to have immediate classified briefings on what occurred at this meeting so that Congress can at least know as much as Russian leaders and know the impact on our national security, our allies, and our men and women protecting our country,” she said in a statement.
Trump took to Twitter on Tuesday to defend his actions.
“As President I wanted to share with Russia… which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety,” Trump tweeted. “Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.”
National security adviser H.R. McMaster said Trump did not know the source of the information he disclosed to the Russians.
“The president wasn’t even aware of where this information came from. He wasn’t briefed on the source and method of the information either,” McMaster told reporters. “What the president shared was wholly appropriate.”
Representative Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Trump’s disclosure only reinforced Democrats’ call for an independent probe.
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