Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered to provide "proof" that Donald Trump did not share intelligence with Russian officials. Key US allies have said they will continue exchanging intelligence with Washington.
Putin on Wednesday told journalists he did not think Trump was being allowed to work properly and did not divulge secret information to Russian officials. He also cheekily added that he would provide "proof" of the latter statement - but only with the White House's approval.
The Russian president's comments came the same day officials in Jerusalem confirmed that Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a timely phone conversation that was apparently unrelated to recent reports that the US president had shared Israeli intelligence with Russian officials at the White House on May 10. Trump is headed to the Middle East next week and plans to visit Israel.
"There was a call yesterday between the president and prime minister for about 20 minutes," Netanyahu's spokesperson said on Wednesday. "The only topic discussed was the upcoming visit."
On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that some of the information Trump shared with Russian officials last week came from Israel. The White House declined to confirm the report. Trump did write on Twitter, however, that he was acting within the privilege afforded by his position when he shared intelligence with Russian officials at the White House last week.
"As president I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled WH meeting), which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety," Trump wrote in Tuesday's two-part tweet. "Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS and terrorism." Trump used a common acronym for the Islamic State group, also referred to as IS.
Inteligence sharing consequences?
Israel and Britain, two key US allies, both expressed their willingness to continue sharing intelligence with Washington.
"Decisions about what President Trump discusses with anybody that he has in the White House is a matter for President Trump," Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday. "We continue to work with the United States and continue to share intelligence with the United States as we do with others around the world because we are all working together to deal with the threats that we face."
Officials in Israel's government consider Trump a close ally - perhaps even more receptive to their needs than his predecessor as US president, Barack Obama, had proved - but concern has grown in Tel Aviv over the novice administration's unpredictability.
In a pair of tweets issued on Wednesday, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman appeared eager to put doubts about Trump's trustworthiness to bed, calling Israel's security partnership with the United States "deep, significant and unprecedented in volume." He wrote: "This is how it has been and how it will continue to be."
Lieberman made no mention of Trump's divulging Israeli intelligence to Russia. Tel Aviv receives roughly $3 billion (2.7 billion euros) a year in defense aid from the United States.
On Monday, The Washington Post reported that Trump had revealed the highly classified information on IS to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the Kremlin's Washington ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. According to The Post, Trump told Lavrov about a specific IS bomb threat.
Putin offered to release a transcript of the meeting to show no secret intelligence was exchanged.
"If the US administration finds it possible, we are ready to provide a recording of the conversation between Lavrov and Trump to the US Congress and Senate," Putin said during a press conference.
mkg/sms (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)