White House National Security Adviser H.R McMaster on Monday defended President Donald Trump by pushing back against the Washington Post article published hours earlier that claimed Trump had revealed highly classified information to Russian officials last week.
Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak the day after he fired now-former FBI Director James Comey. At the Oval Office meeting, Trump reportedly relayed highly classified information regarding critical insight into the Islamic State, the Post reported:
President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump's disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.
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, officials said.
The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said Trump's decision to do so endangers cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. After Trump's meeting, senior White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency.
Shortly after the Post story broke, McMaster accidentally ran into the press outside White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer's office, where he reportedly said, "This is the last place in the world I wanted to be!" before making a quick exit without answering questions.
When HR McMaster accidentally strolls by reporters huddled outside Spicer's office: "This is the last place in the world I wanted to be!" pic.twitter.com/YPFGQBiVkA
— Jeremy Diamond (@JDiamond1) May 15, 2017
Press camped out in west wing trying to confirm. Gen McMaster surprised to see us said "this is the last place in the world I wanted to be" https://t.co/DGXbk8TTaZ
— Cecilia Vega (@CeciliaVega) May 15, 2017
McMaster would reappear shortly afterwards outside the White House, where he delivered a statement about the breaking news to the press.
"There is nothing that the president takes more seriously than the security of the American people, " McMaster said. "The story that came out tonight as reported is false. The president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation."
"At no time, at no time, were intelligence sources or methods discussed, and the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known," McMaster said.
He went on to say that there were two other senior officials in the room, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and that they should be trusted over anonymous sources.