|US President Donald Trump|
By: Vivian Salama and Deb Riechmann
WASHINGTON — The White House on Tuesday defended President Donald Trump's disclosure of classified information to senior Russian officials as "wholly appropriate," as Trump tried to beat back criticism from fellow Republicans and calm international allies increasingly wary about sharing their secrets with the new president.
The highly classified information about an Islamic State plot was collected by Israel, a crucial source of intelligence and close partner in the fight against some of the America's fiercest threats in the Middle East. Trump's disclosure of the information threatened to fray that partnership and piled pressure on the White House to explain the apparently on-the-spot decision to reveal the information to Russian diplomats in a meeting last week.
In a series of morning tweets, Trump declared he has "an absolute right" as president to share "facts pertaining to terrorism" and airline safety with Russia. Although top aides on Monday had declared reports about Trump's discussions false, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster on Tuesday sought instead to downplay the significance of the information Trump revealed. The president had been engaging in "routine sharing" with foreign leaders, he said, arguing that some of the information was publicly available.
Still, the revelations sent a White House accustomed to chaos reeling anew. It is extraordinary for a president to share such information without consent of the country that collected it, apparently violating the confidentiality of an intelligence-sharing agreement with Israel. It was, perhaps, even more remarkable that Trump chose to confide in representatives of an adversary, who could use the information to find its source.
A U.S. official who confirmed the disclosure to The Associated Press said the revelation potentially put the source at risk.
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