CIA Director to Brief House on Trump Intel Share With Russians

In this April 4, 2017 file photo, the Capitol is seen at dawn in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (CN) – CIA Director Mike Pompeo will brief members of the House intelligence committee Tuesday on what President Donald Trump discussed with Russian officials last week, following reports the president revealed classified information during their discussions.

The briefing by Pompeo comes as White House continues to grapple with the fallout from a Washington Post story published Monday in which anonymous sources expressed their concerns over the information leak.

The New York Times followed up Tuesday afternoon with a report that the intel Trump disclosed came from Israel. Neither the White House or Israel has commented on the report.

Meanwhile, shortly before noon Tuesday, Trump’s national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, told reporters everything the president discussed with the Russians was “wholly appropriate.”

In fact, McMaster used the words  “wholly appropriate” nine separate times.

But he did not expressly deny that classified information was disclosed in the Oval Office meeting between Trump and Russian diplomats.

“In the context of that discussion, 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.

In Moscow, meanwhile, the Kremlin dismissed the reports as “complete nonsense.”

Trump himself added new fuel to the roiling controversy Tuesday morning, when he tweeted that he was well within his rights as president to share any information he disclosed to the diplomats.

“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 ISIS & terrorism,” the president said in a pair of tweets.

Trump’s statement appeared to contradict McMaster’s initial assertions, delivered Tuesday night, that the Washington Post report about Trump’s May 10 meeting with  Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and ambassador Sergey Kislyak, had no basis or credibility whtsoever.

“The Washington Post story is wrong,” McMaster said during a hurriedly-arranged press briefing Monday night.

“At no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed and the President did not disclose any military operations that weren’t already publicly known,” McMaster said. “I was in the room. It didn’t happen.”

According to the Washington Post, Trump shared details about an Islamic State terror threat related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft with the Russians. The classified information had been shared with the president by an ally, violating the confidentiality of an intelligence-sharing agreement with that country, the official said.

The Associated Press later said it corroborated that account.

Both news organizations further report that after the meeting Trump was told that he had broken protocol and White House officials placed calls to the National Security Agency and the CIA looking to minimize any damage.

On Tuesday morning, McMaster insisted the information disclosed was squarely intended to bolster the ongoing war on international terrorism.

“We have an area of cooperation against a transnational terrorist organization, ISIS in particular, and that organization has already taken down a Russian airliner and murdered 200 people in 2015,” he said. “This is the context in which it is wholly appropriate to share what the threat was for a basis common action.”

“All of you,” McMaster said, indicating reporters in the room, “are familiar with the threat from ISIS. All of you are familiar with territories under control and if you said, where do you think the threat would come from, you would be able to name a few cities. It’s nothing you wouldn’t know from open source reporting in terms of concern and it had all to do with operations already ongoing and made public for months.”

He added, “I want to make it clear to everybody that the president in no way compromised any sources or methods.”

But Trump’s meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak began generating controversy almost from the moment it began. White House pool reporters were denied access to the meeting, only to find out a photographer from Russia’s state-owned news organization, TASS, was invited into the Oval Office to snap pictures.

While many commentators have said there may not technically be anything illegal about the Trump’s disclosures to the Russians, they do raise the issue of how carefully the president handles classified information.

This is particularly ironic given Trump’s repeated criticism of Democrat Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign for her storing classified material on her private email server when she was secretary of state.

Trump repeatedly accused Clinton of being “extremely careless” in her handling of classified information and said that proved she was not fit to be president.

On Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Democrats and Republicans alike expressed concern about the president’s disclosures. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called the reports “deeply disturbing” and said they could affect the willingness of U.S. allies and partners to share intelligence with the U.S.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the intelligence uproar a distraction from GOP priorities such as tax reform and replacing the health care law.

“I think we could do with a little less drama from the White House on a lot of things so that we can focus on our agenda,” he told Bloomberg Business.

Doug Andres, a spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, said the speaker was looking for “a full explanation of the facts from the administration.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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