The White House was in full detail mode Monday as National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster dismissed reports that President Donald Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian officials during a White House meeting last week, calling the news “false.”
“The story that came out tonight as reported is false,” McMaster told reporters in a brief statement from the White House. “I was in the room, it didn’t happen.”
On Monday, The Washington Post reported that President Trump revealed “highly classified information” to Russian officials during the meeting. The information, which was provided by a U.S. partner, was apparently so sensitive, some details have been withheld from allies and restricted even within the U.S. government.
But McMaster flatly denied the report, which has since been matched by BuzzFeed and other major news outlets.
“At no time, at no time, were intelligence sources or methods discussed,” McMaster went on to say. “And the president didn’t disclose any military operations that were not already known.”
The Post never claimed the president disclosed specific intelligence-gathering method. But an official told the paper that Trump “revealed the city in the Islamic State’s territory where the U.S. intelligence partner detected the threat.”
The disclosure of the location was particularly “problematic,” officials said, because Russia could use that detail to help identify the ally who provided the info as well as intelligence capability involved.
Last week’s meeting, which included Trump, Russia’s ambassador Sergei Kislyak and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, kicked off a media firestorm last week after it was revealed that it was closed to the media, except for a Russian photographer whose photos were promptly published by Russian state media.
The Post reports that Trump’s disclosure could have severe consequences because they were obtained from a U.S. partner who did not give permission to share the material with Russia.
According to officials quoted in the story by the Post, Trump’s decision to reveal the sensitive intel “endangers” cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State.
“This is code-word information,” a U.S. official familiar with the matter told the Post, referring to one of the highest classification levels used by American intelligence agencies. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”