Portman: Congress needs to know exactly what Trump told Russians

WASHINGTON—Sen. Rob Portman called on the White House to give a precise account of what President Trump told Russian officials during their Oval Office meeting last week and called on the Senate intelligence committee to probe reports that he may have disclosed highly classified intelligence.

“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,” Portman said in a statement Tuesday.

Portman’s comments marked the strongest reaction among Cincinnati-area Republicans after the Washington Post reported on Monday that Trump disclosed top-secret intelligence to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during a meeting at the White House last week.

The Post story said Trump’s revelations--about plans by the Islamic State to use laptop computers as weapons--may have given the Russians enough details to identify America’s source for the information, which was provided by a U.S. ally that apparently did not give its permission for the disclosures.

Neither Trump nor his advisers have explicitly denied the Post’s account that president shared classified intelligence, although some have said the story "as reported" is false.

"The president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation," said National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. "At no time, at no time, were intelligence sources or methods discussed and the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known."

Many lawmakers—Democrats and Republicans alike—expressed deep concern about the incident.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the report “deeply disturbing” and said it would send 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.”

Portman said if the Washington Post story is 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.”

But Cincinnati-area House were guarded in their statements on the matter.

"If classified intelligence information is ever improperly revealed, the potential national security ramifications are significant," Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Columbia-Tusculum, said in a Facebook post. Wenstrup sits on the House intelligence committee, which is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether there was any collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign.

"At this point, many of the claims being reported are unsubstantiated," Wenstrup said. "Until we know more, my focus will continue to be gathering the facts and following wherever they lead."

Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Westwood, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, said he could not draw any firm conclusions about the incident since he was not in the room.

“It's critically important that our nation's secrets are protected, and therefore I think any reports of inappropriate disclosure or mishandling of classified information must be taken seriously," Chabot said. "That said, there has been a tendency by some to rush to condemn every action by President Trump before there's been time to fully examine the facts. The only people who know the whole story are those who were in the meeting, and they have refuted the accuracy of this report."

Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Troy, did not respond to a request for comment.

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., seemed to dispute the Post’s account, even though the president acknowledged in a tweet on Tuesday morning that he had made some disclosures in his meeting with the Russians.

"I trust the President's judgment over unnamed sources," Massie said in a statement to the Enquirer.

Contributing: USA TODAY reporter David Jackson

Cincinnati Enquirer


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