By Andrew Roth,
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday he would be willing to provide the U.S. Congress a record of President Trump’s meeting with top Russian envoys, bringing scoffs on Capitol Hill that the Kremlin could help shed light on the disclosures of reportedly highly classified intelligence.
The provocative offer for the Kremlin to share evidence with U.S. oversight committees about the Oval Office meeting came with the caveat that the request for the transcript would have to come from the Trump administration.
Presenting a transcript is the Kremlin’s latest gambit in denying that Trump shared classified secrets last week with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russia’s ambassador to the United States during an Oval Office meeting.
But the tactic may have more to do with attempts to sow further chaos in Washington than assuage suspicions about the talks.
The Kremlin has denied reports that Trump shared classified secrets last week with Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. But Trump’s full comments to the Russian envoys have not been made public.
As reported first by The Washington Post, Trump in a meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak shared classified information about an Islamic State plot to smuggle a bomb disguised as a laptop aboard a passenger plane. Subsequent reports have suggested the intelligence was provided by the Israeli government and was so sensitive that it was not shared even with the United States’ closest allies.
Putin’s remarks left some ambiguity as to the nature of the records. While the word zapis in Russian could indicate an audio recording, an aide told reporters that Putin was referring to a transcript, the Reuters news agency reported.
If there were any question as to whether Putin was trolling the White House, he playfully ribbed his foreign minister during the news conference, saying he would have to censure Lavrov “for not sharing these secrets with us.”
“Neither with me nor with our intelligence services,” he continued. “That’s very bad on his part.”
Putin said that a “political schizophrenia” had gripped the United States and that it was “eliciting concern” in Russia.
“If the administration of the United States deems this possible, we will be ready to provide a transcript of the Lavrov-Trump meeting to the U.S. Senate and Congress,” Putin told reporters during a news conference with visiting Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni. Putin added, “It will happen if the U.S. administration wishes so.”
Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, dismissed Putin’s offer.
“Probably the last person the person [Trump] needs to vouch for him right now is Vladimir Putin,” he said on the CBS show “This Morning,” referring to the Russian offer.
He said he doubted the Kremlin would send anything worth trusting. “Sure, send it our way. But its credibility would be less than zero,” Schiff said.
In a morning interview on Fox News, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) also spurned the Russian president’s announcement.
“I wouldn’t put much credibility on what Putin’s notes are, and if it comes in an email, I wouldn’t click on the attachment,” he said.
Speaking on CNN, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) added: “The idea that we would accept any evidence from President Putin is absurd.”
On Tuesday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman denied that Trump revealed classified information during last week’s meeting, while Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the report was “another piece of nonsense, and we do not want to have anything to do with this nonsense at all.”
“There is nothing here to confirm or deny,” he added.
Shortly after the Russian statements, however, Trump posted tweets saying that “facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety” were shared during the White House meeting on May 10.
Trump added in the tweets that he has the “absolute right” to share the information, which was described to The Post as highly classified and intended to remain only within a tight circle of allies.
“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,” Trump wrote. “Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism,” he added, using an acronym for the Islamic State terrorist group.
Brian Murphy and J. Freedom du Lac in Washington contributed to this report.