Donald Trump has sought to turn the controversy over his leaking of material to Russia on its head, by issuing a warning to “leakers” in his intelligence community.
In a flurry of early morning tweets that appeared to confirm elements of the Washington Post story that said he had given highly classified material to the Russian foreign minister, the president turned his anger on those who provided the story to the media. He claimed he had been asked former FBI Director James Comey to address the issue.
“I have been asking Director Comey & others, from the beginning of my administration, to find the LEAKERS in the intelligence community…,” he said.
I have been asking Director Comey & others, from the beginning of my administration, to find the LEAKERS in the intelligence community.....
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)
The Post said that Mr Trump had mentioned to Sergei Lavrov and Russia’s US Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, information from a third country, relating to an Isis threat.
The third country, an ally of the US, had shared the information on the express condition it be closely guarded. The paper said he had mentioned the city in Isis territory in which a threat had been detected.
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Mr Trump insisted that he had the right to share with Russia, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety.”
He added: “Plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against Isis.”
Some will see Mr Trump’s as standing in contrast to the efforts by three of his officials to deny the report. The White House produced three officials - National Security Adviser HR McMaster, Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson - to deny the report.
“The story that came out tonight as reported is false,” said Mr McMasters. Many saw it as “a non-denial denial”.
For instance, Mr McMasters said that “the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known”, even though the report made no such mention of military operations.