On Monday, after The Washington Post broke the story that President Trump told Russian officials highly classified information when he met with them in the Oval Office last week, his national security advisor H.R. McMaster categorically denied the report.
“There’s nothing that the president takes more seriously than the security of the American people. The story that came out tonight, as reported, is false,” McMaster told the media in a dramatic moment outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington.
. “The president and the foreign minister [Sergey Lavrov] reviewed a range of common threats to our two counties, including threats to civil aviation.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also tried to discredit the story, saying the president did not disclose intelligence “sources” or “methods”, but like McMaster he did not actually refute the Post’s claims.
The story has been verified by multiple news outlets, and Trump posted tweets this morning that appear to contradict the denials and confirm the newspaper report.
According to the Post, the information that Trump shared with the Russians is what’s called “Code Word” classified. That’s higher than the classification known as Top Secret.
The intelligence Trump shared with the Russians could be used to determine the source of the information, which came from spies for another nation and not from US agencies. The sharing of that data without permission is believed to threaten America’s relationship with the provider nation.
While this is not illegal, it is viewed as a breach of trust by many in the intelligence community.
Leading Republicans and Democrats have voiced concerns over what was said, with top Senate Democrat leader Chuck Schumer calling for the transcripts to be released by the White House.
The US Senate Intelligence Committee has also asked for copies of any notes taken in the meeting. CIA Director Mike Pompeo is due to brief the committee later.
Trump tweeted: “As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety.
“Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against [ISIS] & terrorism.”
It is not clear if Trump was acknowledging that he shared intelligence secrets with the Russian officials, thus contradicting White House statements, or whether he was simply trying to explain what had been discussed.
The Washington Post report said Trump confided top secret information related to an ISIS plot to create mischief using laptop computers on aircraft during his a conversation with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in the Oval Office on 10 May.
The newspaper claimed details that the president revealed could expose a source of information, based on leaks from intelligence officials.
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