In a curt statement from the White House driveway, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster on Monday said an explosive Washington Post report that President Donald Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian officials was, “as reported,” “false.”
Carefully choosing his words, McMaster said that Trump did not speak about “intelligence sources or methods” during a meeting last week in the Oval Office with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The Post story does not allege that Trump divulged sources or methods in that meeting, but rather that the United States was not authorized to share the information the President revealed to the Russian officials about an Islamic State threat involving the use of laptop computers on aircraft. Anonymous officials familiar with the meeting told the newspaper that the conversation could jeopardize one of the intelligence community’s key sources on ISIL.
BuzzFeed, the New York Times and Reuters were among the publications who subsequently corroborated the Post’s account.
McMaster, who participated in the meeting, went further in his statement to reporters than he did in an earlier statement he provided to the Washington Post. In addition to asserting that the Post’s story was “false,” he said that on-the-record sources should be given more weight than anonymous ones.
“The President did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known,” the national security adviser said. “Two other senior officials who were present, including the secretary of the state, remember the meeting the same way and have said so. Going on the record should outweigh the anonymous sources. I was in the room. It didn’t happen.”
The White House circulated a statement from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that parroted the initial statement from McMaster, saying the President and Russian officials only discussed “common threats from terrorist organizations to include threats to aviation.”
Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy Dina Powell, who also attended the meeting, also called the Washington Post story “false” in a statement.