WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork) — Classified intelligence that President Donald Trump shared with Russian officials during a meeting at the White House was given to the U.S. by Israel,
Israel is a major U.S. ally in the Middle East, they are also an important intelligence collector.
President Donald Trump made his first public appearance Tuesday since a Washington Post report alleged he told Russian officials classified information.
As CBS2’s Dick Brennan reported, the White House has insisted that the Washington Post report was wrong, and that what was shared was “wholly appropriate” and consistent with routine sharing of information.
When asked about the report after speaking alongside Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Trump ignored questions saying only say “we had a very, very successful meeting with the foreign minister of Russia.”
“Our fight is against ISIS,” he added. “As General McMaster said, I thought he said and I know he feels that we had actually a great meeting with the foreign minister so we’re going to have a lot of great success in the coming years.”
Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said earlier Tuesday that it is “wholly appropriate for the president to share whatever information he thinks is necessary to advance the security of the American people.”
Speaking to reporters at the White House, McMaster said “the premise” of a Washington Post article “is false” and that there wasn’t “any kind of lapse in national security.”
“What the president discussed with the foreign minister was wholly appropriate to that conversation and is consistent with the routine sharing of information between the president and any leaders with whom he is engaged,” McMaster said.
The Washington Post reported that Trump revealed “highly classified” intelligence to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during a meeting at the White House last week.
CBS News confirmed that at least some of the information that Trump shared with Russia came from the Israelis.
Speaking to the New York Times on the condition of anonymity, officials said that Israel had asked the United States to handle the information carefully.
It had not been confirmed, Tuesday, that Israel was the source of the shared intelligence, but in a statement to the Times, Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer said the countries would ‘maintain a close counterterrorism relationship.’
“Israel has full confidence in our intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States and looks forward to deepening that relationship in the years ahead under President Trump,” Mr. Dermer said.
Trump took to Twitter Tuesday morning to defend sharing information with the Russians.
“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 wrote Tuesday morning, suggesting he did it for “humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.”
McMaster reiterated Tuesday that he was in the room when the president met with the Russians as well as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Dina Powell, the deputy adviser for national security.
He said what Trump told the Russians “was nothing that you would not know from open-source reporting.”
“It had to do with operations that are already ongoing that had been public for months,” he said.
McMaster said that the “real issue” is that national security “has been put at risk by those violating confidentiality and those releasing information to the press.”
As CBS2’s Brennan reported, the Washington Post report said Trump went off script in the meeting and began describing details about an ISIS terrorist threat related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft.
U.S. officials told the paper the disclosures may have endangered a key intelligence source involved with the campaign against ISIS.
The information shared by Trump with the Russians was not collected by U.S. intelligence. Rather, it was given to the U.S. by an ally in the fight against ISIS, and was provided with the understanding that it would not be shared with other countries without permission.
The intelligence was “code-word information,” the Post reported. That’s the term used for intelligence classified at the highest possible level. U.S. officials worry that the disclosure of the information will do serious harm to relations with the ally in question.
A former intelligence official told CBS News “something inappropriate” was discussed by President Trump, and that “details were discussed that should not have been discussed.”
Greg Miller is the co-author of the Washington Post story. He spoke with CBS News about the story on Tuesday.
“If this was all appropriate and there was no problem here, why was it that White House officials were quickly calling the CIA director and the NSA director to give them a heads up on what had just happened?” Miller said.
Trump did not do anything illegal. But there is a concern that Trump may have revealed significant defails compromising a sensitive intelligence channel.
“The president in no way compromised any sources or methods in the course of this conversation,” McMaster said. “The president wasn’t even aware of where this information came from. He wasn’t briefed on the source of method of the information either.”
There are now calls from Congress that the transcript of the meeting be made available to intelligence committees.
“If the president felt comfortable sharing this information with the Russians, surely he feels comfortable sharing it with the Congress of the United States of America,” said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)
A senior European intelligence official told CBS News his country may stop sharing information with the United States if it confirms Trump is sharing classified details with Russian officials.
On Friday, Trump will embark on his first foreign trip as president. He will visit Saudi Arabia, Israel and Europe.