Donald Trump and the White House have sought to brush off the controversy over his sharing of highly sensitive material with Russia, as concerns grew that nations may decide to stop their intelligence cooperation.
As it was reported that Israel was the source of the information about an Isis terror plot that Mr Trump passed to the Russian Foreign Minister, the White House tried to insist the President had every right to act as he did.
Mr Trump, who had apparently “spontaneously” decided to share the information with Russia, said he believed his actions would help in the fight against terrorism.
“We had a very, very successful meeting with the foreign minister of Russia,” Mr Trump said of his meeting in the Oval Office last week, with Sergei Lavrov and the Russian Ambassador to Washington.
“We want to get as many to help fight terrorism as possible. And that’s one of the beautiful things that's happening with Turkey.”
Yet few people shared Mr Trump’s view. While much of of the public criticism was muted, in private there appeared to widespread concern about the potential damage the President had done. One senior European official, told the Associated Press, they may decide to stop intelligence sharing with the US, if it transpired Mr Trump had passed on classified information.
“There could be a risk for our sources,” said the official.
Legal experts, along with the White House, said that in his position as president, Mr Trump had it in his executive powers to declassify material, and to share it, in a way that would represent a breach of the law if it was done by anyone else.
National security advisor HR McMaster told reporters in Washington he had been as the meeting with the Russian officials and had witnessed anything amiss.
Asked directly if Mr Trump had handed over classified information, Mr McMaster refused to answer.
“We don’t say what is classified, what it not classified,” he said. “What the president shared was wholly appropriate.”
“As you know, its wholly appropriate for the president to share information he decides is needed to advance the security of the American people.”
When he was pressed about when the decision was made to share the information - reportedly details of an Isis threat to use explosives in laptops - he said: “He made the decision in the context of the conversation, which was wholly appropriate.”
The biggest names involved in the Trump-Russia investigation
The biggest names involved in the Trump-Russia investigation
1/11 Paul Manafort
Mr Manafort is a Republican strategist and former Trump campaign manager. He resigned from that post over questions about his extensive lobbying overseas, including in Ukraine where he represented pro-Russian interests.
2/11 Mike Flynn
Mr Flynn was named as Trump's national security adviser but was forced to resign from his post for inappropriate communication with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. He had misrepresented a conversation he had with Mr Kislyak to Vice President Mike Pence, telling him wrongly that he had not discussed sanctions with the Russian.
3/11 Sergey Kislyak
Mr Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the US, is at the centre of the web said to connect President Donald Trump's campaign with Russia.
4/11 Roger Stone
Mr Stone is a former Trump adviser who worked on the political campaigns of Richard Nixon, George HW Bush, and Ronald Reagan. Mr Stone claimed repeatedly in the final months of the campaign that he had backchannel communications with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and that he knew the group was going to dump damaging documents to the campaign of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton - which did happen. Mr Stone also had contacts with the hacker Guccier 2.0 on Twitter, who claimed to have hacked the DNC and is linked to Russian intelligence services.
5/11 Jeff Sessions
The US attorney general was forced to recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation after it was learned that he had lied about meeting with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak.
6/11 Carter Page
Mr Page is a former advisor to the Trump campaign and has a background working as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch. Mr Page met with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Mr Page had invested in oil companies connected to Russia and had admitted that US Russia sanctions had hurt his bottom line.
7/11 Jeffrey "JD" Gorden
Mr Gordon met with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 Republian National Convention to discuss how the US and Russia could work together to combat Islamist extremism should then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump win the election. The meeting came days before a massive leak of DNC emails that has been connected to Russia.
8/11 Jared Kushner
Mr Kushner is President Donald Trump's son-in-law and a key adviser to the White House. He met with a Russian banker appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in December. Mr Kushner has said he did so in his role as an adviser to Mr Trump while the bank says he did so as a private developer. Mr Kushner has also volunteered to testify in the Senate about his role helping to arrange meetings between Trump advisers and Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak.
9/11 James Comey
Mr Comey was fired from his post as head of the FBI by President Donald Trump. The timing of Mr Comey's firing raised questions around whether or not the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign may have played a role in the decision.
10/11 Preet Bharara
Mr Bahara refused, alongside 46 other US district attorney's across the country, to resign once President Donald Trump took office after previous assurances from Mr Trump that he would keep his job. Mr Bahara had been heading up several investigations including one into one of President Donald Trump's favorite cable television channels Fox News. Several investigations would lead back to that district, too, including those into Mr Trump's campaign ties to Russia, and Mr Trump's assertion that Trump Tower was wiretapped on orders from his predecessor.
11/11 Sally Yates
Ms Yates, a former Deputy Attorney General, was running the Justice Department while President Donald Trump's pick for attorney general awaited confirmation. Ms Yates was later fired by Mr Trump from her temporary post over her refusal to implement Mr Trump's first travel ban. She had also warned the White House about potential ties former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to Russia after discovering those ties during the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign's connections to Russia.
He also said that Mr Trump had not been briefed on the source of the material.
On Capitol Hill, Democrats sought to seize on Mr Trump’s actions. The Senate Intelligence Committee asked the White House for more information about what information was passed on.
Senior Republican John McCain, a senator from Arizona, said the report of Mr Trump sharing the information with Russia was “deeply disturbing”.
“Regrettably, the time President Trump spent sharing sensitive information with the Russians, was time he did not spend focussing on Russia’s aggressive behaviour, including its interference in American and European elections, it’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea,” he said.
The fact that Israel - one of America’s closest allies - was the source of the information passed on to Russia, will complicate Mr Trump’s first trip, on which he is due to embark this week. The first two stops are due to be Saudi Arabia and Israel.
In January, Israeli media reported that American officials had warned their Israeli counterparts to be careful what they told Mr Trump, as they feared it could be passed on to Russia. Israel will be particularity concerned that the details could make their way to Iran, a regional ally of Russia, but the nation Israel considers its main threat.
Israel has declined to confirm it was the source source of the information that Mr. Trump shared. In a statement published by the New York Times, Ron Dermer, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States, said: “Israel has full confidence in our intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States and looks forward to deepening that relationship in the years ahead under President Trump.”
Yet, Mr Trump will struggle to throw off the impression of amateurism and his unwillingness or inability to deal with sensitive information, or difficult circumstances.
John Pike, a strategic and military analyst with the Washington-based GlobalSecurity.org, told The Independent, Mr Trump appeared unable not to “blurt out information”. “The main damage is to functioning of the American government, and its statecraft,” he said.Reuse content