They realized that selecting such a high official would in some ways validate the story, but they wanted to establish a credible witness account exonerating the president from wrongdoing - before the barrage of Twitter posts they knew would be coming from Trump on Tuesday morning.
The revelations could further damage Trump's already fraught relationship with U.S. intelligence agencies.
Trump's appetite for chaos, coupled with his disregard for the self-protective conventions of the presidency, have left his staff confused and squabbling.
Even before the latest bombshell dropped, reports swirled in the White House that the president was about to embark on a major shake-up, probably starting with the dismissal or reassignment of Sean Spicer, the press secretary. The new details about their concerns come amid mounting questions about whether Trump himself has been careless with the nation's secrets.
National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said Tuesday that President Donald Trump's recent talks with Russian diplomats were "wholly appropriate", without confirming or denying whether the information he shared was classified.
With no notice, Trump last week fired FBI director James Comey, who had been leading an investigation of possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the US presidential election.
"Obviously, they're in a downward spiral right now and they've got to come to grips with all that's happening", he said of the White House.
OM - Mercato : Rudi Garcia compte sur Rémy Cabella
Titulaire à l'Olympique de Marseille en début de saison, Rémy Cabella a peu à peu reculé dans la hiérarchie au fil des mois. Alors qu'un possible départ pour 8 millions d'euros était évoqué, l'OM a finalement décidé de conserver Cabella cet été.
"Conceivably he's compromised some pretty serious national intelligence sources", Greg Anderson, associate professor of political science at the University of Alberta, told Global News. Trump and his team alleges that this is being done at the behest of those who are still loyal to the previous Obama administration.
One official said it appeared the transition aides were moving the information from the transition offices to the White House, a distance of just a few blocks.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway raised eyebrows when she seemed to invent a terrorist attack in Kentucky as she justified the necessity of Trump's controversial travel ban executive order.
Trump pressed that he's legally able to share important intelligence information as he sees fit, and McMaster confirmed that by arguing that in the context of his conversation with the Russians about the ISIS threat, it was a natural part of the conversation.
The matter has opened Trump up to charges of hypocrisy.
Later, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a statement that largely mirrored what McMaster had told the Post, but allowed that Trump had in fact discussed specific threats in the Oval Office meeting. Any president can legally declassify intelligence information. And the statement also points to testimony last week by acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who told lawmakers that the White House had not interfered with any investigation.
The latest controversy came as Trump's administration reels from the fallout over his abrupt dismissal of former FBI Director James Comey and amid congressional calls for an independent investigation into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US election. In February, while Trump was hosting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his Florida resort, they discussed their response to a North Korean missile launch while eating dinner in the resort's public dining room. The White House vowed to track down those who disclosed the information. "I have people brief me on great intel every day", he said.
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