Journalists called out the White House’s attempt to spin a Washington Post report that President Donald Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. In a statement following the report, White House national security advisor H.R. McMaster gave a statement saying the president did not reveal “sources and methods” to the Russians, a claim that the media noted was not a part of the Post’s report.
Washington Post: “Trump Revealed Highly Classified Information To Russian Foreign Minister And Ambassador.” The Washington Post reported that during his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, President Trump revealed highly classified information:
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 that Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.
The information Trump 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 that Trump’s decision to do so risks 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 National Security Agency.
“This is code-word information,” said a U.S. official familiar with the matter, using terminology that refers to one of the highest classification levels used by American spy agencies. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.” [The Washington Post, 5/15/17]
Trump National Security Adviser Calls Washington Post Story False
H.R. McMaster: “The Story That Came Out Tonight As Reported Is False.” In a brief statement to the media following the Post’s report, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said “at no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed.” From the May 15 edition of Fox News’ The Story:
H.R. MCMASTER: I just have a brief statement for the record. There is nothing that the president takes more seriously than the security of the American people. The story that came out tonight as reported is false. The president of 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. The president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known. Two other senior officials who were present, including the secretary of the state, remember the meeting the same way and have said so. Going on the record should outweigh the anonymous sources. I was in the room. It didn’t happen. Thanks, everybody. [Fox News, The Story, 5/15/17]
Media Says McMaster Statement Is A Misdirection
Katy Tur: McMaster Saying “Sources And Methods” Is A Red Herring.” NBC News correspondent Katy Tur, noted that McMaster’s statement, focusing on “Sources and methods” is a red herring because The Washington Post “article doesn’t say Trump revealed sources and methods to Russians.”
CNN’s Jim Acosta: McMaster “Did Not Specifically Say That The President Did Not Reveal Classified Information.” On Anderson Cooper 360, CNN’s Senior White House Correspondent Jim Acosta said McMaster did not address the specific allegation put forth by the Washington Post story:
ANDERSON COOPER (HOST): So Jim, explain how the White House is reacting. Because several people who were in that office have put out statements, although in some cases they’re not really addressing what the actual reporting said.
JIM ACOSTA: That’s right. I think it’s safe to say at this hour, Anderson, the White House is knocking down that story in The Washington Post. They are saying it’s false as reported but in a carefully worded statement you could hear the National Security Adviser to the president H.R. McMaster addressing reporters earlier this evening. Really tailoring his words to declare that this story is just not accurate.
And that was it Anderson, H.R. McMaster did not take any questions from reporters, there were reporters asking including myself whether there was a recording of this meeting of this meeting between the president and those Russian officials. He did not answer that question but we should point out, you heard H.R. McMaster there say that “the President did not reveal any sources or methods.” He did not specifically say that the president did not reveal classified information. That’s a pretty important distinction there. [CNN, Anderson Cooper 360, 5/15/17]
Kristen Welker: “That Is Not What Was In The Washington Post Report.”Following National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster’s comments to the stakeout outside the White House, Chris Matthews and Kristen Welker pushed back on his argument that the president did not reveal “sources and methods” to the Russian ambassador and foreign minister.
CHRIS MATTHEWS (HOST): Let's go to Kristin Welker. Kristen, I think what we're seeing there is someone denying something that wasn't asserted in the news articles, the Times and the Post, starting with the Post. The Washington Post asserted basically, they discussed, he discussed, gave away operational information about a coming terrorist plot. And actually the identity of the spot where it’s going to occur. So there was that kind of information. Nobody ever said the president gave away the tip where we got it from, simply what the tip was. That denial was a non-denial denial. Anyway, your thoughts, your reporting.
KRISTEN WELKER: I think you’re absolutely right. They continue to go back to this wording, “sources and methods.” That is not what was in the Washington Post report. The Washington Post states that President Trump relayed classified information obtained from one of the United States’ allies. And you didn’t hear McMaster address that very specific issue. [MSNBC, Hardball with Chris Matthews, 5/15/17]