Vulnerable House Republicans distance themselves from Trump


Trump has endured a week of tumult at the White House after he fired the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and then discussed sensitive national security information about Islamic State with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Both National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Press Secretary Sean Spicer briefed reporters on Tuesday, yet neither flatly denied that he disclosed sensitive intelligence.

Embattled US President Donald Trump said he had a right to share information with Russia relating to terrorism and airline safety after he faced explosive allegations that he divulged top secret intelligence to Russian diplomats in the Oval Office.

McMaster said in a briefing that "the president wasn't even aware of where this information came from, he wasn't briefed on the source or method of the information either".

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 Republican billionaire's administration, now just barely four months old, left reeling by the one-two punch, which sparked instant outrage from Democrats who demanded a full explanation.

"Conceivably he's compromised some pretty serious national intelligence sources", Greg Anderson, associate professor of political science at the University of Alberta, told Global News.

According to the Times, the constant chaos at the White House has intensified divisions among a staff already frustrated with the president's unpredictability - and infuriated Trump, who officials told the paper does not "possess the interest or knowledge of the granular details of intelligence gathering". Most alarmingly, officials said, Trump revealed the city in the Islamic State's territory where the USA intelligence partner detected the threat. This has reportedly aggravated Trump, who has called McMaster a "pain" and complained that he talks too much in meetings.

The White House has an unusual credibility problem: President Donald Trump's aides deliver questionable statements or aggressively argue points that Tump himself then contradicts.

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He said the details shared with the Russian officials were "easily available" in the public domain. A president has the ultimate authority in the government to decide what's classified - even if they blurt out or otherwise reveal classified information without a deliberate declassification process.

The report alleges that Trump shared information about laptops on planes, which was given to the United States by an ally who did not give consent for it to be shared with Russian Federation. Such sharing "could be a risk for our sources", the official said. The official spoke only on condition that neither he nor his country be identified, because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Trump, whose administration has been dogged by allegations that Russia helped him win the White House and that he and his allies are too cosy with Moscow, has defended his decision to discuss intelligence with the Russians, after media reports of the meeting alarmed some US and foreign politicians.

Though the U.S. president is allowed to declassify and share classified information at any moment, the issue has sparked a huge uproar over whether Trump compromised national security by disclosing the details to Russian Federation, long considered a hostile country to the US.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said Comey needs to come to Capitol Hill and testify. He said Trump discussed a range of subjects with the Russians, including "common efforts and threats regarding counter-terrorism".

In daily floor remarks Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, did not mention the latest Trump controversy, focusing his remarks on health care instead.

"I think we could do with a little less drama from the White House on a lot of things so that we can focus on our agenda", he told Bloomberg Business. "I say to all of my colleagues in the Senate, history is watching", said top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer.

But there are other laws that could come into play when sensitive information is disclosed to harm the USA, according to David Pozen, who teaches national security law at Columbia Law School.

Trump's first foreign trip also begins later this week and includes a stop in Saudi Arabia, another Islamic State foe, and a May 25 North Atlantic Treaty Organisation meeting in Brussels attended by other important US allies.