Donald Trump’s decision to give Russian officials high-level intelligence information was “wholly appropriate” and did not endanger any intelligence sources, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said at a White House press conference Tuesday.
McMaster, however, did not deny reports that the information Trump gave Russia’s foreign minister and U.S. ambassador about ISIS activities at a White House meeting was “highly classified” material that had been shared with the U.S. by a Middle Eastern government which had not authorized its release.
The national security adviser said that the “premise” of Monday’s initial Washington Post report on the subject was “false” in that Trump did not engage in “a conversation that was inappropriate or that resulted in any kind of lapse in national security. … What the president discussed with the foreign minister was 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 confirmed that Trump’s decision to share the information was spontaneous and occurred “in the context of the conversation.”
Trump is reported to have shared specific information about an ISIS plan to target airlines in a way that the New York Times says “could expose the source of the information and the manner in which it was collected.” McMaster on Tuesday suggested that this was implausible because “the president wasn’t even aware where this information came from” and that Trump “wasn’t briefed on the source or method of the information” that he gave to the Russians—an explanation that raises the question of how the president can be trusted to understand which material is sensitive if he’s not told how it was obtained. More to come on this whole situation, no doubt!