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Lawmakers want info on Trump sharing intel with Russia

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Republican U.S. Rep. Justin Amash is calling on the administration to “promptly” share with Congress details of President Donald Trump’s meeting with Russian officials in which he reportedly disclosed highly classified information about the Islamic State group.

Amash, one of the most vocal GOP critics of Trump, tweeted his request Tuesday morning, referencing a tweet by Trump himself in which the president said he had an “absolute right” to share “facts” with Russia.

In a follow-up tweet, Trump said he had asked FBI Director James Comey – whom Trump fired last week – and others “from the beginning of my administration, to find the LEAKERS in the intelligence community.”

The Washington Post first reported on Trump’s conversation with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador about a plot to use laptops in terror attacks, citing anonymous current and former U.S. officials. The Post said the president disclosed intelligence from a foreign ally.

The White House pushed back against the Post story, while not disputing the disclosure. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters late Monday that “at no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed, and the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known.”

McMaster, addressing reporters Tuesday at the White House, said what Trump discussed with the Russian foreign minister was “wholly appropriate to the conversation and I think wholly appropriate to what the expectations are of our foreign partners.”

McMaster declined to confirm whether the information disclosed was classified.

Lawmakers from both parties are expressing concerns, particularly because the sharing of the classified information could endanger a valuable source of intelligence on ISIS.

Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, told WHTC 1450 AM on Tuesday the possibility of exposing the intelligence source was “very, very troubling,” but “we don’t know all the facts yet.”

“It’s one thing to seek cooperation to blunt various threats,” Upton said.

“The question and the fear we all have is: Did the White House reveal the source of that information and, if that is the case, then that’s very troubling. It puts that source – it probably puts them to not being a source in the future – and it might put them at risk, let alone other American assets. That’s what we got to figure out.”

U.S. Rep. John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said if the allegations are true, Trump might have jeopardized an intelligence source in the process.

Conyers called for a congressional briefing by McMaster and directors of the U.S. intelligence agencies to “get to the bottom of these allegations,” adding that Congress should obtain any audio recordings of the meeting.

“This is the same meeting in which Russian officials laughed with the president in front of Russian photographers inside the Oval Office, while members of the American press were excluded,” Conyers said in a joint statement with Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

“After an unprecedented week in which many thought it would be impossible for President Trump to be any more irresponsible, he now may have sunk to a dangerous new low.”

Rep. Mike Bishop, a Rochester Republican, said Congress needs to find out what happened and “ensure there are no errors moving forward.”

“Classified information requires the greatest level of care and attention to detail, and it’s important that the president respects this trust,” Bishop said in a statement.

Rep. Sandy Levin, D-Royal Oaks, said Congress needs to take the matter seriously.

“President Trump is a loose cannon, often speaking and acting without regard for the consequences. The sharing of classified information with Russian officials has potentially damaged relationships with critical allies and endangered lives,” Levin said in a statement.

“Now, more than ever, we need to understand the full breadth of the president’s connections to Russia, from his campaign associates to his financial holdings.”

Rep. Dan Kildee, D- Flint Township, noted an Associated Press account of a senior European intelligence official who said Tuesday his country might stop sharing information with the United States if it confirms Trump did share classified information with the Russians. The official said Trump’s doing so “could be a risk for our sources.”

“President Trump has compromised our ability to defend ourselves against ISIS, to gather intelligence against them, and he has jeopardized our relationships with allies across the globe,” Kildee said Tuesday on the House floor.

“Make no mistake about it: The president’s actions were reckless, they’re indefensible, and they make America less safe. Republicans cannot stay silent. There are serious questions about the president’s carelessness, about his lack of judgment.”

Kildee went on to quote House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, saying last July that “individuals who are extremely careless with classified information should be denied further access to it.”

Rep. Dave Trott, R-Birmingham, said while McMaster has stated the conversations were appropriate, “it is critical that all classified information is handled carefully in an effort to protect our intelligence agencies, our allies, and, most importantly, our agents on the ground.”

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, tweeted a link to the Post story, saying “Russia is not our friend. It’s alarming if President Trump is exposing highly sensitive classified info to adversary.”

In response to the Post’s story, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, said she was, “once again, deeply alarmed.”

“POTUS leaking highly classified information to Russians puts lives at risk,” she tweeted Monday night.

mburke@detroitnews.com

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