- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 16, 2017

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin Republicans sought answers from the White House on Tuesday about what exactly President Donald Trump said during a private meeting with senior Russian officials last week, with Rep. Mike Gallagher calling for a full transcript of the conversation.

Gallagher, a former Marine counter-intelligence officer in his first term representing northeast Wisconsin, said the White House needs to share the transcript with House and Senate intelligence committees. Other Republicans in Wisconsin’s delegation said that at the very least, Congress needs to be told more about what happened.

Trump defended his right to share “facts pertaining to terrorism” and airline safety with Russia, saying in a pair of tweets Tuesday he has “an absolute right” as president to do so. Trump’s tweets did not say whether he revealed classified information about the Islamic State group, as has been reported.

“While POTUS possesses the authority to disclose classified, even top secret, information, there’s a separate question of whether he should,” Gallagher wrote in a series of tweets Tuesday morning, using the acronym for President of the United States.

Gallagher said that as an intelligence officer by training, “I know firsthand the life and death implications of safeguarding classified information. Our allies and partners must have the utmost confidence that sensitive information they share with us will not be disclosed.”

Gallagher also said, “Regardless of what was shared in the meeting, it’s dangerous to believe that Russia can be a reliable counterterrorism partner.”

Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, like Gallagher, wants Trump to brief the intelligence committees “on what was shared and why,” said his spokeswoman Nicole Tieman. Republican Rep. Glenn Grothman is “looking forward to Congress being briefed on the matter,” said his spokeswoman Bernadette Green.

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement that it would be “concerning” if Trump divulged classified information that revealed sources and harmed intelligence collecting efforts.

Doug Andres, a spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, said Monday night that “We have no way to know what was said, but protecting our nation’s secrets is paramount. The speaker hopes for a full explanation of the facts from the administration.”

Ryan, Johnson and other Republicans were highly critical last year of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, questioning whether classified information was compromised after then-FBI Director James Comey called her actions “extremely careless.”

“So it stands to reason that individuals who are ‘extremely careless’ with classified information should be denied further access to that type of information,” Ryan said then.

Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan, of Black Earth, retweeted Ryan’s comment from last year along with a news story about Trump’s meeting with the Russians and said, “Well this is awkward.” Pocan agreed with Gallagher that the intelligence committees should receive a transcript of the meeting.

Johnson, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said in July that his committee was going to look into the FBI’s decision not to recommend criminal charges against Clinton. He did not immediately reply to messages seeking comment Tuesday.

Democratic Rep. Ron Kind joined with the Republicans in calling for Trump to tell the House and Senate intelligence committees what was said “and any damage it may cause.”

“Our intelligence officers and allies go to great lengths to make sure any and all threats to the United States are addressed, and this careless sharing of information puts their mission and the safety of our country at risk,” Kind said in a statement.

Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin said that Russia is not a reliable partner in the fight against terrorism. She said in a statement that Trump’s actions are “threatening our partnerships with allies in the fight against ISIS and our ability to protect the homeland against terrorism.”

Rep. Gwen Moore, a Milwaukee Democrat, tweeted that no one should be surprised that Trump puts Russia ahead of the United States.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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