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Donald Trump defends sharing 'facts' with Russia

Report blaming US president for leaking ISIL-related intelligence to Russian diplomats stirs up a new political storm.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump has confirmed in a series of tweets that he shared intelligence with Sergei Lavrov and Sergei Kislyak, respectively Russia's foreign minister and ambassador in Washington, DC, while hosting them in the Oval Office.

The US president defended his move on Tuesday, saying he had an "absolute right" to do so as commander-in-chief and that he discussed "facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety".

A report by the Washington Post newspaper quoted two US officials saying that Trump shared highly classified information about a planned ISIL operation, supplied by a US ally in the fight against the armed group also known as ISIS.

Trump's tweets did not say whether he revealed classified information about ISIL, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

White House reaction

The disclosure put a source of intelligence on ISIL at risk, according to the Washington Post, which broke the story on Monday.

The White House reacted to the reports, but did not deny that classified information was disclosed in the May 10 meeting between Trump and the Russian diplomats.

Trump entered the debate personally the morning after Rex Tillerson, US secretary of state, and HR McMaster, US national security adviser, issued statements saying no sources, methods or military operations were discussed at the Russian meeting.

McMaster said the story was false.

The Kremlin dismissed the reports as "complete nonsense". And Russia's foreign ministry spokesperson took to Facebook to describe the reports as "yet another fake".

The developments come close on the heels of Trump's contentious dismissal of James Comey, the FBI director, who was investigating allegations of Trump's ties to Russia.

Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, has been a central player in the controversy surrounding possible coordination between Trump's campaign and Russia's election meddling.

'Very, very troubling'

The alleged Trump disclosure comes in advance of his first overseas trip to the Middle East and then to the NATO leaders' summit in Brussels.

Bob Corker, the Republican head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the allegations "very, very troubling".

"Obviously, they're in a downward spiral right now," he said on Monday, "and they've got to come to grips with all that's happening."

Malcolm Turnbull, Australia's prime minister, would not comment on the disclosure. Australia is a member of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing programme with the U.S., Canada, Britain and New Zealand.

Jordan said King Abdullah II was to speak by phone on Tuesday with Trump.

The Royal Court insisted the arrangements for the call were made last week. Jordan is one key US ally in the Middle East.

A senior German legislator expressed concern about the reports.

"If it proves to be true that the American president passed on internal intelligence matters that would be highly worrying", Burkhard Lischka told the Associated Press news agency.


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