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 BurrTrump: Why isn't Senate looking into 'Fake News Networks'? Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open Special counsel looking into dossier as part of Russia probe: report 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 WarnerTrump: Why isn't Senate looking into 'Fake News Networks'? 5 takeaways from Senate Russian meddling presser Trump: 'America is truly a nation in mourning' 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.