McMaster Stands by Calling Washington Post Story False, Says Trump's Actions Were 'Appropriate'

May 16, 2017

White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Tuesday that he stood by his criticism of a report that said President Trump revealed highly classified information last week to top Russian officials, stating the story's premise was false and Trump's actions were "appropriate."

The Washington Post reported Monday that Trump went off-script during an Oval Office meeting with Russian diplomats Sergei Lavrov and Sergey Kislyak and began "describing details of an Islamic State terrorist threat related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft." According to the report, the intelligence partner had not given the U.S. permission to share the material with Russia and the incident had endangered future cooperation.

McMaster said Monday that the story was false and no intelligence sources or methods were discussed, although Trump tweeted on Tuesday that he wanted to share facts about terrorism and airline flight safety with Russia and was within his rights to do so.

"I stand by my statement I made yesterday," McMaster said Tuesday at the White House press briefing. "What I'm saying is really the premise of that article was false, that in any way the president had a conversation that was inappropriate or that resulted in any kind of lapse in national security."

He said the real issue was national security being put at risk by means of leaks to the press.

Later, Associated Press reporter Julie Pace pressed him further on whether Trump discussed classified information with the Russian officials.

"Are you denying that he revealed information that was given to the U.S. by an intelligence partner?" Pace asked.

"What we don't do is discuss what is and what isn't classified," McMaster said. "What I will tell you is 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's engaged."

He said he would not confirm if the information came from an intelligence partner. Pace asked if there was a concern that this could jeopardize intelligence sharing relationships with other countries.

"No, I'm not concerned at all," McMaster said. "That conversation was wholly appropriate to the conversation, and I think, wholly appropriate with [what] the expectations are of our intelligence partners."