Donald Trump was unaware of where the intelligence he discussed with Russia came from, his national security adviser H.R. McMaster has admitted in an astonishing insight into the care the President takes with crucial information.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, McMaster said President Trump could not have jeopardised US spies because he was ignorant of the source of what he was revealing.
“The president in no way undermined sources or methods in the course of this conversation,” he told reporters.
He added at the very end of the news conference: “The president wasn’t even aware of where this information came from. He wasn’t briefed on the source or method of the information.” (See video above).
McMaster made clear that none of the US officials present for the president’s Oval Office meeting with the Russian foreign minister last week “felt in any way that that conversation was inappropriate.” He used the words “wholly appropriate” nine separate times.
Trump himself claimed the authority to share “facts pertaining to terrorism” and airline safety with Russia, saying in a pair of tweets he has “an absolute right” as president to do so. Trump’s tweets did not say whether he revealed classified information about ISIS.
McMaster, who a day earlier had dismissed the reports as “false”, continued to take issue with the “premise” of the story broken by the Washington Post.
But he also did not deny when directly questioned that Trump had relayed classified information from an ally to the Russians, or that Trump named a city.
McMaster, in the White House briefing, said:
“In the context of that discussion, what the president discussed with the foreign minister was wholly appropriate to that conversation and is consistent with the routine sharing of information between the president and any leaders with whom he is engaged.”
The White House has not expressly denied that classified information was disclosed in the Oval Office meeting between Trump and Russian diplomats last week. The Kremlin dismissed the reports as “complete nonsense.”
The news reverberated around the world as countries started second-guessing their own intelligence-sharing agreements with the US.
Trump shared details about an Islamic State terror threat related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak, a senior U.S official told Associated Press.
The classified information had been shared with the president by an ally, violating the confidentiality of an intelligence-sharing agreement with that country, the official said.