Senate Intel leaders request briefing with officials in Trump-Russia meeting

Senate Intel leaders request briefing with officials in Trump-Russia meeting
© Greg Nash

The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee want a meeting with White House officials who were in the room during President Trump's meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, when he reportedly revealed classified information that could risk allies' intelligence capabilities.

"We'd like to understand what was said," chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrNSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Senate Intel chairman: No need for committee to interview Bannon McConnell: Russia probe must stay bipartisan to be credible MORE (R-N.C.) said Tuesday, calling the briefing "crucial" but noting that the president possesses the broad legal authority to declassify information at his discretion.

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"Once Mark and I have an opportunity to talk to individuals who were in the meeting, that will either confirm our confidence or possibly shake our confidence," Burr said, referring to the committee's top Democrat, Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerNSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Dem lawmaker wants briefing on major chip vulnerabilities Week ahead: Tech giants to testify on extremist content MORE (Va.).

Both National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and Deputy National Security Advisor Dina Powell have said they were present for the meeting, during which Trump reportedly exposed extremely sensitive classified information.

The incident has sparked a firestorm in Washington, where critics have said that Trump has exposed valuable intelligence sources and methods — and put intelligence-sharing relationships with U.S. allies at risk. 

The White House has characterized the disclosures as "wholly appropriate," arguing that the "the real issue" is the leaks to the press that revealed Trump's exchange.

Burr said Tuesday that the committee is also concerned with leaks out of the administration.

"Inherently, Mark and I are concerned anytime we read an intelligence story in the media," Burr said. "I think there's a national security risk anything about the intelligence community is reported publicly and leaks are definitely a concern that we have." 

But he declined to comment on the substance of the revelations about Trump's meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak until he has spoken to the relevant officials. Warner said that the committee did not yet know if there were transcripts of the meeting, but called for the transcripts to be provided to the committee "appropriately redacted" if they exist. 

The committee has yet to receive a response from the White House. Burr indicated that he hoped to hear from the administration before the end of the day on Tuesday.

"We're optimistic we'll get an answer," Burr said.