President Trump came under pressure Tuesday to explain why he shared sensitive intelligence with senior Russian officials last week in a meeting in the Oval Office.
“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,” Trump tweeted on Monday in response to the allegations. “Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS [and] terrorism.”
“I have been asking Director Comey [and] others, from the beginning of my administration, to find the LEAKERS in the intelligence community…,” the president added in another tweet.
As president, Trump does have wide authorities to share intelligence information with foreign leaders, but some U.S. officials say the particular intelligence he shared was highly sensitive information that came from a foreign intelligence service. The officials say it could lead that foreign state to stop sharing information pertinent to counter-terrorism with the United States.
Trump conferred with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak in the controversial Oval Office meeting.
“If the reporting is accurate, in one fell swoop the president could have unsettled our allies, emboldened our adversaries, endangered our military and intelligence officers world over, and exposed our nation to greater risk,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor on Tuesday.
“Given the gravity of the matter, we need to be able to quickly assess whether or not this report is true, and what exactly was said,” Schumer added. He called on the White House to make the transcript of the meeting with the Russians available.
A report from the New York Times named Israel as the source of the sensitive intelligence, but the White House refused to confirm that detail. The original report about the leak came from the Washington Post.
White House officials deny that anything untoward happened during the meeting. “The president and the foreign minister reviewed common threats from terrorist organizations to include threats to aviation,” National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said. “At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed, and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly.”
McMaster was reportedly a participant in the meeting.
Many Republicans are trying to distance themselves from the president after the alleged leak.
“We could do with a little less drama from the White House,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in an interview on Bloomberg TV.
Republican Senator Bob Corker said the White House was in “a downward spiral” on Monday night, while Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse told the Daily Mail “It’s not helpful that this was with the Russians, right, I mean this is just weird.”
Democratic Texas Rep. Al Green on Monday called for impeachment. “President Trump is not above the law,” Green said Monday. “He has committed an impeachable act and must be charged. To do otherwise would cause some Americans to lose respect for, and obedience to, our societal norms.”
Trump likely did not break any laws by sharing intelligence with foreign officials, and Congress is currently under Republican control, making impeachment improbable, but Green is not the first representative to talk about removing the commander in chief from office.
The controversy comes amid another borderline scandal, with the dismissal of FBI head James Comey last week while he was in the middle of an investigation into Trump and his associates. It adds to the growing list of complaints, scandals, and controversies surrounding the administration since the president took office.
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