SALT LAKE CITY — A Republican Utah congressman and former military officer says President Donald Trump needs to be more careful when talking about classified information.
"My read from the press reports at least is that him conveying something that was inappropriate probably hasn’t taken place yet," Rep. Chris Stewart said Tuesday on KSL Newsradio's "The Doug Wright Show."
"But the president has to be careful, and this president has a hard time being careful, it seems to me."
The Washington Post, citing anonymous sources, reported that Trump disclosed highly classified intelligence to Russia's foreign minister about a planned Islamic State operation during a meeting in the Oval Office last week.
Trump tweeted Tuesday, "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. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism."
National security adviser H.R. McMaster defended Trump's action during a White House news conference Tuesday.
"In the context of that discussion, what the president discussed with the foreign minister was wholly appropriate to that conversation and is consistent with the routine sharing of information between the president and any leaders with whom he’s engaged," McMaster said. "It is wholly appropriate for the president to share whatever information he thinks is necessary to advance the security of the American people. That’s what he did."
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, told CNN he believes what McMaster said is true.
Asked if he accepts Trump's explanation that the president by definition can divulge what he likes, Hatch said, "Well, I accept the general's explanation that he went on television and gave. I think it was accurate, as far as I know."
Hatch will participate in a confidential briefing Thursday that will include information about the dismissal of former FBI Director James Comey and the FBI’s Russia investigation, according to the senator's office.
Stewart, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said he's familiar with the details of the program Trump was talking about. He said there is an "obvious concern" about Russia being able to connect the dots to track down the source of the information.
Evan McMullin, a former CIA operative and independent presidential candidate, said the report is cause for concern.
"Generally, we don’t have the president of the United States compromising sensitive information to a foreign adversary this brazenly," the BYU graduate said on CNN.
Trump didn't need to talk about sources or methods for the Russians to "reverse engineer" the information to get to its source and pressure the person to work for them, McMullin said.
"It gets very complicated," he said. "But the big picture is ultimately we lose control through our allies of an important stream of intel, and that puts Americans at risk."
Stewart, who was headed back to Washington on Tuesday, said he would learn more about the situation when he gets there.29 comments on this story
CIA Director Mike Pompeo was expected to brief House Intelligence Committee members Tuesday night about reports that Trump shared highly classified information with Russian officials, Politico reported, citing to two sources familiar with the meeting.
One source said the meeting was previously scheduled, though lawmakers were expected to grill Pompeo about the latest revelations, according to Politico.
A former Air Force pilot, Stewart said he doesn't believe Trump is a traitor or that he is colluding with the Russians to harm the U.S., as some have suggested.
"I just think that's nuts," he said.