BRUSSELS — President Donald Trump arrived at NATO headquarters on Thursday under a cloud of suspicion about the security of foreign intelligence shared with the United States, a controversy he tried to head off by vowing to end leaks of secret information.
Trump was due to face an incensed British Prime Minister Theresa May, who plans to confront him over intelligence leaks about the Manchester suicide attack.
Shortly after he arrived at NATO, Trump released a written statement decrying unsanctioned disclosures.
“The alleged leaks coming out of government agencies are deeply troubling,” the statement said. “These leaks have been going on for a long time and my administration will get to the bottom of this. The leaks of sensitive information pose a grave threat to our national security.
“I am asking the Department of Justice and other relevant agencies to launch a complete review of this matter, and if appropriate, the culprit should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
“There is no relationship we cherish more than the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom.”
Trump was facing May for the first time since Monday’s suicide attack in Manchester, England, during a meeting of European and North American leaders.
In the days since the attack, secret information about the investigation has appeared in U.S. media after leaks from American officials.
“On the issue of the intelligence sharing with the United States of America, we have a special relationship with the USA. It is our deepest defense and security partnership,” May told reporters as she arrived at the NATO summit in Brussels.
“Of course, that partnership is built on trust and part of that trust is knowing that intelligence can be shared confidently, and I will be making clear to President Trump today that intelligence that is shared between law enforcement agencies must remain secure.”
Trump ignored shouted questions about whether Britain could trust the U.S. with its intelligence as he was greeting French President Emmanuel Macron outside the U.S. Chief of Mission’s residence ahead of talks.
Inside, Trump ignored the questions again, mouthing “thank you” before dismissing reporters from the room.
British officials are fuming that information about the attack have surfaced in the U.S. media after it was shared with their American counterparts.
It’s put a shadow over the fourth stop of Trump’s first foreign trip, which has also brought him to Saudi Arabia, Jerusalem and Rome.
Back home, new questions were also surfacing about alleged ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia, a storyline Trump had hoped to escape during his international foray.
The confrontation over leaks has led to a suspension of intelligence sharing between the Greater Manchester Police and U.S. officials, according to Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham.
“The decision that’s been taken is — not to suspend any sharing of information — it’s just information related to this particular investigation because we, quite frankly, can’t afford to risk it anymore, it has been compromised by the leaks and we can’t afford anymore, so we’ve taken a temporary decision to say, ‘Let’s clear it out and draw a line, let’s not have a row that lingers on.’ Nobody wants that, but equally we have to make our opinions clear so we can get this relationship back to where we all want it to be,” Burnham said.
The intelligence dust-up threatened to dampen Trump’s formal introduction to leaders at NATO, the first heads-of-state gathering that Trump has attended since taking office.
Trump has met most of the leaders during visits to the White House, but his appearance in Brussels offers the first opportunity for him to hold broader discussions with his counterparts.
For months, Trump has been railing against leaks from inside the U.S. government. It could be a moment for Trump to make a similar case on the world stage.
The United States and Britain are both participants in the “Five Eyes” intelligence sharing pact between English-speaking nations.
The leader of another member, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, declined to answer directly whether he was reconsidering his country’s intelligence agreement with the United States.
“The track record has shown collaboration and cooperation between allies,” Trudeau said ahead of the NATO talks. “We will continue to collaborate and work together to ensure we do everything we can to keep citizens and communities safe.”
Trump wasn’t planning to speak with reporters at NATO, unlike several of his counterparts, including Trudeau, May, Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.