President defiant over reportedly sharing Israeli information with Russian officials, tweeting: I wanted to share with Russia facts pertaining to terrorism
Donald Trump has declared he had an absolute right to share information of a terrorist plot with Russia amid widespread reports he dedicated away highly classified information provided by Israeli intelligence.
Israel rapidly proclaimed it had full confidence in its intelligence-sharing agreement with the US, but there was no evidence that it had been consulted on a decision to share a tip-off – a decision the president appears to have stimulated on the spur of the moment in a meeting last week with the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, and the Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak.
The intelligence Trump shared involved an Islamic State plot to use bombs hidden in laptop computer to bring down aircrafts, according to the Washington Post, which first reported security incidents. White House officials confirmed that it concerned a threat to aviation and argued it was appropriate to share such information with Russia, which has also been the main victims of terrorism. They pointed to a 2015 terrorist attack on a Russian aircraft over Egypt.
Multiple US news organisations reported the source of the information was Israel, days before Trump is due to visit Jerusalem on Monday a visit that has already been affected by a row with the host government over the presidents plan to visit the Western Wall without the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Israeli embassy did not confirm or deny the reports that it was the source of the intelligence, but the ambassador, Ron Dermer, issued a statement saying: Israel has full confidence in our intelligence-sharing relationship with the US and looks forward to deepening that relationship in the years ahead under President Trump.
It was unclear on Tuesday whether a planned speech by Trump at the ancient fort of Masada would go ahead as schemed. McMaster did not mention it in laying out an agenda for the presidents first journey abroad, which begins on Friday with a first stop in Saudi Arabia.
The US national security adviser, HR McMaster, said that the president had not been aware of the source of the information he had shared.
One of the powers of a US president is to declassify information at any moment he prefers. Trumps Tuesday morning tweets did not specify whether the information he shared with Russia was classified.
As president, I wanted to share with Russia( at an openly scheduled WH meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight security, Trump wrote. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against Isis and terrorism.
Trumps tweets contradicted flat denials issued by senior officials on Monday night, and the White House declared the report to be false. On Tuesday, McMaster offered a more calibrated response.