National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said that the information that President Trump shared last week with two Russian officials was “wholly appropriate” and denied that the revelation put “sources or methods” at risk.
McMaster’s press conference was carried by the major broadcast and news networks, a reflection of the unfolding story that has dominated coverage over the past 18 hours. The Washington Post reported on Monday that Trump shared highly classified information with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office on Wednesday. The Post stated that “the information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government.”
Other news outlets, including CNN, Reuters, and BuzzFeed, confirmed the Post account.
McMaster told reporters that Trump “wasn’t even aware of where this information came from.”
On Monday, McMaster gave a brief statement to the media in which he characterized the Post story as “false.” In his press briefing on Tuesday, he said that the “premise” of the story was false — in other words, that what Trump did was improper.
Asked specifically whether Trump shared classified information, McMaster said, “We don’t say what is classified or unclassified.” He also declined to specifically say whether Trump shared information about the location of the ISIS intelligence, saying that the city “was nothing you couldn’t get from open sourced reporting.”
McMaster did focus on the issue of who leaked the information to the Post. He said that he thinks that the “national security is put at risk” by such actions.
Earlier on Tuesday, Trump tweeted that he shared “facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety” during the meeting.
“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,” Trump wrote.
“I have been asking Director Comey & others, from the beginning of my administration, to find the LEAKERS in the intelligence community…” the president added.