Speaking to reporters from the White House briefing room Tuesday, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster defended President Trump's conversations with the Russian Foreign Minister and Ambassador in the Oval office last week.
"The conversation was wholly appropriate," McMaster said. "The President in no way compromised any sources or methods in the course of this conversation."
The statement comes after the Washington Post reported the President shared "highly classified" information during the meeting without authorization from the ally who provided it through an intelligence source.
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. “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.
McMaster responded to the story Monday afternoon by saying it was "completely false." He stood by that assertion today and argued the conversation was based on mutual threats from terrorism, including ISIS ' ability to pack bombs into laptops on airplanes.
"I stand by my statement that I made yesterday. The premise of that article is false," he stated, adding that those who leaked the details of the meeting to the press compromise national security.
Earlier today, President Trump justified the information he shared as necessary to cooperation and national security.
As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017
...to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017
I have been asking Director Comey & others, from the beginning of my administration, to find the LEAKERS in the intelligence community.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017
The President of the United States has ultimate classification authority, meaning he can classify or declassify essentially any kind of information he sees as necessary.
UPDATE - Two new notes on this controversy: First, as we speculated earlier, NBC News is reported that Israel is the source of the ISIS intelligence in question. Second, the CIA Director is doing damage control on Capitol Hill.