Congress: White House must brief intel panels on Trump-Russia

WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) — Key Republican lawmakers criticized President Trump on Tuesday for reportedly sharing sensitive intelligence information with Russian officials as a growing number of lawmakers called on the administration to tell House and Senate intelligence committees exactly what information he provided.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine — a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee — called on the Trump administration to brief the Senate Intelligence Committee "immediately."

"The disclosure of highly classified information has the potential to jeopardize sources and to discourage our allies from sharing future information vital to our security," Collins said in a statement Tuesday. "There are conflicting reports about whether or not President Trump disclosed sensitive information to the Russians. Although the President has the legal authority to disclose classified information, it would be very troubling if he did share such sensitive reporting with the Russians."

RELATED: Trump 'wasn't even aware' of where info shared with Russia came from, adviser says

The Senate Intelligence Committee "has reached out to the White House to request additional information on recent reports about alleged dissemination of intelligence information," said Becca Watkins, communications director for Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo was scheduled to hold a closed-door briefing with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday night, but that briefing has been scheduled for about two weeks and is not in response to the reports about Trump discussing classified information with the Russians. However, committee members are sure to ask him about it.

National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster told reporters Tuesday that Trump had shared threat information with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during a White House meeting last week, but the information shared was “wholly appropriate” for the context of the conversation about combatting terrorism.

McMaster said he and Secretary of state Rex Tillerson were both in the room and untroubled with Trump’s disclosures at the time. The Washington Post reported Monday that the conversation raised concerns that Trump may have provided Russia with insights into how the intelligence was collected by a U.S. ally.

Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., called the reports of Trump's conversation with the Russians "deeply disturbing."

"Reports that this information was provided by a U.S. ally and shared without its knowledge sends a troubling signal to America’s allies and partners around the world and may impair their willingness to share intelligence with us in the future," McCain said Tuesday. "Regrettably, the time President Trump spent sharing sensitive information with the Russians was time he did not spend focusing on Russia’s aggressive behavior, including its interference in American and European elections, its illegal invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, its other destabilizing activities across Europe, and the slaughter of innocent civilians and targeting of hospitals in Syria."

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who serves on the Foreign Relations Committee, said the Senate Intelligence Committee, should "fully review the matter."

"Serious questions have been raised," Portman said. "If these reports are true, I am concerned about the potential consequences of providing highly classified information to Russia — especially intelligence provided to us in confidence by an ally.  We need answers from the White House about what exactly happened in that meeting, and I believe the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee should fully review the matter and conduct the appropriate oversight."

RELATED: Trump says he has 'absolute right' to release terrorism info to Russians

Those comments came a day after Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told reporters that "to compromise a source is something that you just don't do."

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called Tuesday for the White House to make the transcripts of Trump's meeting with the Russian foreign minister available to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees as soon as possible.

"If the president has nothing to hide, he should direct that the transcript of the meeting be made available," Schumer said in a speech on the Senate floor. "The members who sit on those committees have the necessary clearances to review that transcript and any related summaries of the president’s meeting with the Russians ... Those committees would be able to help establish the facts before we grapple with the potential consequences."

Schumer said the committees need the transcripts "to see exactly what the president said, given the conflicting reports from the people in the room. Producing the transcripts is the only way for this administration to categorically prove the reports untrue."

Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, a former Marine who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, tweeted Tuesday that "as an intelligence officer by training, I know first-hand the life and death implications of safeguarding classified information." He called on the White House to share the meeting transcripts with the House and Senate intelligence committees.

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that "sharing closely held information may provide a way for our adversaries to figure out how we got that information."

"One of the key principles of protecting sources and methods is to never share the information you get from those sources," Blunt said.

Three Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee, expressed concern Tuesday about Trump's reported conversation with the Russians.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla, tweeted that "we should not share sensitive intelligence with nations like Russia as others may be reluctant to share info with U.S."

Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., wrote on his Facebook page that "classified Intelligence is classified for a reason and must be respected and protected as such at all levels of government."

"While sharing intelligence against a mutual threat such as ISIS is warranted at times — and in the President's purview — the U.S. must take every precaution to protect the sources and methods of long-established allies who assist us," LoBiondo wrote. "These media reports are deeply concerning and I will raise the issue surrounding the disclosure of classified information in the House Intelligence Committee when we meet this week."

A third GOP member of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, said he will focus on gathering the facts and "following wherever they lead."

“If classified intelligence information is ever improperly revealed, the potential national security ramifications are significant," he wrote on his Facebook page. "As a member of the House Intelligence Committee and a veteran, I know firsthand how critical protecting our nation’s intelligence is to our overall security as well as to the safety of the men and women serving this country overseas."

Contributing: Eliza Collins, Deirdre Shesgreen, Craig Gilbert, Herb Jackson

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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