Trump told Russian officials in 2017 he was unconcerned about Moscow's election interference: report

President TrumpDonald John TrumpOklahoma City Thunder players kneel during anthem despite threat from GOP state lawmaker Microsoft moving forward with talks to buy TikTok after conversation with Trump Controversial Trump nominee placed in senior role after nomination hearing canceled MORE reportedly told two senior Russian officials in an Oval Office meeting in 2017 that he was unconcerned about Moscow’s election interference the previous year, saying the U.S. did the same thing to other countries.

Three former officials with knowledge of the matter told The Washington Post that Trump’s comments sparked alarm among White House staffers, prompting them to restrict access to the remarks to an unusually small number of people with the highest security clearances to prevent the conversation from being leaked. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The conversation took place at a now-infamous meeting between Trump and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak in which the president revealed highly classified information that exposed an intelligence source on ISIS, The Post reported.

Trump pushed back on the report late Friday, calling it "more fake news" in a tweet and invoking past comments from his former national security adviser H.R. McMaster who said at the time that it was "wholly appropriate" for Trump to discuss the information.

"The president in no way undermined sources or methods in the course of this conversation,” McMaster had told reporters at the White House in May 2017, saying Trump did not know the source of the disclosed information.

The White House and National Security Council did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill on Friday night.

Trump had also reportedly said during the Oval Office meeting that firing former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyFBI officials hid copies of Russia probe documents fearing Trump interference: book Sally Yates to testify as part of GOP probe into Russia investigation Comey to release second book, 'Saving Justice: Truth, Transparency, and Trust' in January MORE had relieved “great pressure” on him.

A former senior official told The Post that Trump had regularly defended Russia’s actions in 2016 in private, telling aids that no country is pure.

“He was always defensive of Russia,” the former senior official told the Post. “He thought the whole interference thing was ridiculous. He never bought into it.”

The news came after a declassified whistleblower complaint revealed that the White House sought to restrict access to a transcript of a July call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which he suggested Zelensky should open an investigation into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe Biden2020 Democratic Party platform endorses Trump's NASA moon program Don't let Trump distract us from the real threat of his presidency Abrams: Trump 'doing his best to undermine our confidence' in voting system MORE, one of Trump’s top political rivals. 

The whistleblower added that the handling of the Ukraine call was “not the first time” that such steps had been taken “solely for the purpose of protecting political sensitive — rather than national security sensitive — information.”

It is unclear if officials placed the transcripts of the conversation with Lavrov and Kislyak was placed in the same secured electronic system in which they stored the Zelensky transcript. 

Officials said they started restricting access to some of the transcripts for Trump’s calls over a year ago after details of some phone calls with world leaders leaked to the media. 

“It was more about learning how can we restrict this in a way that still informs the policy process and the principals who need to engage with these heads of state,” a former official told The Post.

Updated: 5:40 a.m.