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Trump says he didn't name Israel in discussing counter-terrorism intelligence with Russians

 (Menahem Kahana / Agence France-Presse)
(Menahem Kahana / Agence France-Presse)

President Trump today denied that he revealed that Israel was the source of intelligence about a terrorist threat to commercial airliners during his meeting with Russian diplomats earlier this month.

Just arrived in Israel on Monday, and speaking here alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump insisted, "I never mentioned the word or the name Israel."

"They're all saying I did," he said, pointing to reporters. "So you have another story wrong. Never mentioned the word Israel."

Published reports have not said that Trump identified Israel in his May 10 Oval Office meeting with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador to the United States, only that he divulged intelligence from an unnamed allied country that did not want it shared. Subsequent reports, citing anonymous sources, have said the ally is Israel and that Israeli intelligence officials were furious that Trump shared enough information for Russia to deduce what country was the source.

Netanyahu, however, did not directly address the intelligence controversy.

He cut through the shouts of multiple questioners during the photo opportunity with Trump to say simply, "Intelligence cooperation is terrific. It's never been better." 

The White House has described as "wholly appropriate" Trump's decision to share sensitive information during his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Trump acknowledged in later Twitter postings that he had discussed the threat that the Islamic State would use laptops as explosive devices aboard passenger planes. He said he wanted Russia "to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism."

In their remarks together, Trump and Netanyahu each continued to draw a hard line toward Iran. Trump criticized the nuclear deal negotiated by his predecessor in concert with European allies, including Russia, though as president he has not carried through with a campaign vow to scrap it. The pact put a moratorium on Iran's further development of nuclear weapons in return for ending some sanctions against the country.

"Instead of being thankful and saying thank you, because they were in serious trouble ... we gave them a lifeline," Trump said of the Iranians. "Instead of saying thank you to the United States, they now feel emboldened."

In 2015, Netanyahu took the unusual step of addressing a joint session of Congress -- at Republican leaders' invitation -- to urge lawmakers to block the deal. The deal was one of the main contributors to the icy personal relationship between Netanyahu and then-President Obama.

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