The Slatest

Trump Says He “Never Mentioned the Word ‘Israel’” to the Russians, Which No One Says He Did

U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during an official welcoming ceremony on his arrival at Ben Gurion International Airport on May 22, 2017.

Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images

Just ahead of a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today, President Trump told a group of reporters several times that he “never mentioned the word, or the name, Israel,” in his Oval Office conversation with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador earlier this month. He then leaned over to Netanyahu, who is presumably fully aware of what they’re talking about, and told him, “they were all saying I did.”       

Who is “they”? Neither the original Washington Post story about Trump’s disclosure of classified intelligence to the Russians, nor the New York Times story that identified Israel as the source of that intelligence, suggest that Trump identified the country by name. Rather, the concern, as the Times put it, was that he had “provided enough details to effectively expose the source of the information and the manner in which it had been collected” to the Russian government, an ally of Israel’s rival, Iran. It’s also worth pointing out that neither the U.S. or Israeli governments have officially confirmed that Israel was the source, something Trump didn’t bother to mention.

It’s hard to tell who comes off worse in this clip: Trump, who thinks he should get brownie points for not actually disclosing the name, address, and passport number of the spy who gathered the intelligence he was passing to the Russian government, or Netanyahu, who desperately wants this visit to go smoothly, and stands there grinning, saying that the state of intelligence cooperation between the two countries is “excellent.”