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Washington • In the wake of President Donald Trump's meeting with Russian officials where he reportedly shared highly classified information, some members of Utah's Republican delegation to Congress largely parroted the White House's defense that there was nothing wrong with what the president said.
"It's something that's way blown out of proportion," Sen. Orrin Hatch told reporters Tuesday.
His office later clarified that the senator trusts National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster's characterization of the Trump-Russian discussion as "wholly appropriate," but looks forward to learning more about the Oval Office encounter. Hatch will be part of a closed-door briefing Thursday about the FBI's probe into the Russia interference in the election and Trump's abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey.
"Senator Hatch served longer on the Senate Intelligence Committee than any other member in history," his office said in a statement.
"Needless to say, he takes these matters very seriously and will not litigate the issue in the press."
Sen. Mike Lee, meanwhile, said the allegations would be "highly problematic if true" and called for a briefing from the administration.
The Washington Post reported Monday afternoon that in an Oval Office meeting with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador, Trump discussed "code-word" classified information that was so sensitive it had not been shared with some U.S. allies. The White House pushed back, calling the story "false" and noting that Trump had not mentioned sources and methods to collect the information.
The Post story did not say Trump had shared sources and methods, but noted that the information could lead to revealing the U.S. partner who provided the key intelligence.
McMaster said Tuesday that the "premise" of The Post's story was false but wouldn't say whether Trump had given the Russians classified information.
Trump tweeted early Tuesday that he had the "absolute right" to share "facts" with Russia to fight terrorism and ensure airline safety.
Lee, R-Utah, said he wants an accounting of what was discussed.
"The executive branch has not briefed the Senate on what specifically was shared with Russian officials last week, but the allegations emerging from the press would be highly problematic if true," Lee said. "The White House should offer a further accounting of the incident to the legislative branch."
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, said late Monday that he hadn't had time to look into the matter but wasn't concerned.
"But from what McMaster said and others, it sounds to me like some pretty horrible [news] reporting," Stewart texted.
Stewart is Utah's lone member of the House Intelligence Committee that is probing ties between Russia and Trump associates after the country's meddling in the U.S. presidential election last year. He did not immediately return a phone call for comment.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo was scheduled to brief the Intelligence Committee Tuesday night.
The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, CNN and BuzzFeed among others, confirmed The Post's story.
"It's far worse than what has already been reported," one U.S. official, speaking anonymously, told BuzzFeed.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said that if there was a question of sources and methods of intelligence gathering discussed, the House Intelligence Committee should include that in its ongoing review of the Russia-Trump links. He said his committee is not the place for such an investigation.
Asked if he still trusted Trump with classified information, Chaffetz said, "Of course."