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5/16/2017 Trump defends 'absolute right' to share 'facts' with Russia - BBC News

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Trump defends 'absolute right' to share 'facts' with Russia

42 minutes ago US & Canada

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US National Security Advisor H.R McMaster: "I was in the room, it didn't happen"
US President Donald Trump has defended his "absolute right" to share information with
Russia, following a row over classified material.

Mr Trump tweeted that he had shared "facts pertaining to terrorism and airline safety" and
wanted Russia to do more against so-called Islamic State.

He met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the Oval Office last week. 1/7
5/16/2017 Trump defends 'absolute right' to share 'facts' with Russia - BBC News

US media said Mr Trump had shared material that was passed on by a partner which had not
given permission.

In his tweet early on Tuesday, Mr Trump said: "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 [IS] & terrorism."

Is Trump allowed to share secret information?

Russia: The scandal Trump can't shake

The verdict on Trump so far

A report in the Washington Post said Mr Trump had confided top secret information relating to
an IS plot thought to centre on the use of laptop computers on aircraft.

Mr Trump's move is not illegal, as the US president has the authority to declassify information.

The action drew strong criticism from Democrats and a call for an explanation from his own
Republican party.

But the BBC's Anthony Zurcher in Washington says this was a carefully constructed defence of
the meeting, in which President Trump frames any revelation of intelligence information as a
calculated move to advance US national security priorities.

After all, the controversy that swirled around the White House on Monday night was never legal, it
was political, and this defence may be enough for Republicans to rally around, he adds.

What happened in the Oval Office?

In a conversation with the Russian foreign minister and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak in
the Oval Office, the president revealed details that could lead to the exposure of a source of
information, officials told the Washington Post.

The intelligence disclosed came from a US ally and was considered too sensitive to share with
other US allies, the paper reported. 2/7
5/16/2017 Trump defends 'absolute right' to share 'facts' with Russia - BBC News


Others at the meeting realised the mistake and scrambled to "contain the damage" by informing
the CIA and the National Security Agency (NSA), says the Post.

Trump and Comey: What is the firestorm about?

Could Trump be guilty of obstruction of justice?

The meeting came a day after Mr Trump fired his FBI chief, James Comey, sparking criticism
that he had done so because the FBI was investigating his election campaign's alleged Russian

How did the White House initially respond?

National Security Adviser HR McMaster told reporters the story, "as reported", was "false".

"At no time - at no time - were intelligence sources or methods discussed. And the president did
not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known."

The statement was echoed by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

But the Washington Post said this did not amount to a denial.

Speaking to the BBC, Post reporter Greg Jaffe said the story made it clear the president did not
disclose sources or methods.

But he added: "Our story says that the nature of the information provided would have allowed the
Russians to 'reverse engineer' to discover the sources and methods. He said so much that they
could figure it out."

Golden rule: Frank Gardner, BBC security correspondent 3/7
5/16/2017 Trump defends 'absolute right' to share 'facts' with Russia - BBC News

Despite the denials issued by the White House that any actual intelligence sources were
revealed to the Russians, whatever was said in that Oval Office meeting was enough to alarm
certain officials and, reportedly, to alert the CIA and NSA.

They in turn will have needed to warn the country that supplied the intelligence. There is a golden
rule in the world of espionage that when one government supplies intelligence to another it must
not be passed on to a third party without permission of the original supplier. The reason is
simple: it could put the lives of their human informants at risk.

In this case it appears to relate to the discovery of plans by jihadists in Syria to devise a way of
smuggling viable explosive devices on board a plane inside a laptop computer. Given the well-
publicised ban on laptops in cabins on certain Middle Eastern routes, whoever revealed that
information is unlikely to be still in place.

What has the reaction been?

The Senate's second-highest ranked Democrat, Dick Durbin, said Mr Trump's actions appeared
to be "dangerous" and reckless".

A spokesman for Paul Ryan, Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, said: "We
have no way to know what was said, but protecting our nation's secrets is paramount.

"The Speaker hopes for a full explanation of the facts from the administration."

One senior Nato diplomat quoted by Reuters said: "If true, this is not going to instil confidence in
allies already wary of sharing the most sensitive information."

In Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov played down the incident, saying: "We generally
do not want to have anything to do with this nonsense."

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova urged people not to read US
newspapers. 4/7
5/16/2017 Trump defends 'absolute right' to share 'facts' with Russia - BBC News

Levels of US classification - from lowest to highest

Confidential: Information that reasonably could be expected to cause damage to the
national security if disclosed to unauthorised sources. Most military personnel have this level
of clearance

Secret: The same wording in the first sentence above, except it substitutes serious

Top Secret: Again, the same wording except to substitute exceptionally grave damage

Codeword: Adds a second level of clearance to Top Secret, so that only those cleared with
the codeword can see it. Administered by the CIA. The material discussed by Mr Trump with
the Russians was under a codeword, sources told the Washington Post

Related Topics

Islamic State group Russia Donald Trump

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