Israel Highlights U.S. Ties After Trump Shares Intel With Russia

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman
  • As Putin says he can prove Trump did not pass Russia secrets

Israel’s defense minister reiterated his country’s “deep, significant” ties with the U.S. on Wednesday, a day after it emerged that President Donald Trump had shared highly sensitive Israeli intelligence with Russia.

“The security relationship between Israel and our greatest ally the United States is deep, significant and unprecedented in volume,” Avigdor Liberman wrote in a tweet.

Trump spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu late Tuesday, a senior White House official told NBC News. Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. foreign military aid.

On Tuesday, three government officials told NBC News that Israel had been the source of ISIS-related intelligence about a laptop bomb threat that Trump had given Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The link to Israel — first reported by the New York Times — came a day after it was first disclosed that the president had passed on the information during a meeting at the White House last week.

Although Trump tweeted that he had an “absolute right” to brief Lavrov, some lawmakers have warned that the episode could have serious repercussions for relations with key partners.

“The disclosure of highly classified information has the potential to jeopardize sources and to discourage our allies from sharing future information vital to our security,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said.

Also on Tuesday, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said that what Trump did was “wholly appropriate” and “consistent with the routine sharing of information between the president and any leader with whom he’s engaged.”

Meanwhile, two U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News that many people inside the U.S. intelligence community dispute McMaster’s characterization.

In 2016, the U.S. pledged to give Israel’s military $38 billion over 10 years, which former President Barack Obama’s White House said was the largest such aid package in American history

In the meantime, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that U.S. President Donald Trump did not pass any secrets onto Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during a meeting in Washington on May 9 and that he could prove it.

Speaking at a news conference alongside Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, Putin quipped that Lavrov had not passed what he said were the non-existent secrets onto him either.

Putin said Russia was ready to hand a transcript of Trump’s meeting with Lavrov over to U.S. lawmakers if that would help reassure them.

Two U.S. officials said on Monday that Trump had disclosed highly classified information to Lavrov about a planned Islamic State operation, plunging the White House into another controversy just months into Trump’s short tenure in office.

On Tuesday, Trump said that he had an “absolute right” to share intelligence information with Russia.

“As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining … to terrorism and airline flight safety,” he wrote on Twitter.

“Plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism,” he continued.

The Washington Post reported Monday that Trump revealed highly classified information about the Islamic State extremist group during a meeting last week with Russian envoys in the Oval Office.

Additional report from NBC