Trump defends 'absolute right' to share 'facts' with Russia
Embattled US President Donald Trump sought to rebut bombshell allegations that he divulged highly classified intelligence to Russian diplomats in the Oval Office, arguing he acted within the law.
Trump took to Twitter to address reports that he passed ultra-sensitive classified information about the Islamic State group - gleaned by a foreign intelligence partner - to Kremlin emissaries.
The scandal has engulfed Trump's presidency and could corrode trust among allies who had been willing to share intelligence with the United States on the understanding it would be properly handled.
White House aides refused to say whether the information pertaining to the group's bomb-making capabilities was classified.
But the president insisted he had the "absolute right" to share "facts pertaining... to terrorism and airline flight safety" with Russia.
The Washington Post reported on Monday that Trump disclosed revealing details about the origin of the threat to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Moscow's man in Washington Sergey Kislyak during a controversial meeting last week.
The New York Times reported that the information was provided, at least in part, by Israel - which had allegedly urged Washington be careful in handling it.
In defending his disclosures to the Russian officials, Trump cited "humanitarian reasons" and an effort to get the Kremlin to "greatly step up" its fight against the Islamic State group.
"We had a very successful meeting with the foreign minister of Russia," Trump later said. "We're going to have a lot of great success over the next coming years and we want to get as many to help fight terrorism as possible."
The Post, citing unnamed officials, said Trump went off script during the meeting, describing details about an Islamic State terror threat related to the use of laptop computers on airplanes, and revealing the city where the information was gathered.
The Trump administration recently barred the use of laptops in the passenger cabin from several countries in the Middle East and is mulling the expansion of that ban to cover jets originating in Europe.
The Post report sparked the latest in a wave of firestorms to engulf the White House, leaving aides frantically trying to douse the flames and determine the source of such damaging leaks.
"I have been asking Director Comey & others, from the beginning of my administration, to find the LEAKERS in the intelligence community," Trump tweeted Tuesday.
Since coming to office in January, Trump has lurched from crisis to crisis, lampooning the intelligence services, law enforcement and the media along the way.
Trump's meeting with top Russian diplomats last week came one day after he threw his administration into turmoil by taking the rare step of firing his FBI director James Comey.
Comey had been overseeing investigations into possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia to skew the 2016 election.