“There is nothing the president takes more seriously than the security of the American people. The story that came out tonight as reported is false,” McMaster told reporters outside the White House. “The president and 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. And the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known.”
McMaster continued, “Two other senior officials who were present, including the Secretary of State, remember the meeting the same way and have said so. Their on-the-record accounts should outweigh anonymous sources. And I was in the room, it didn’t happen.”
McMaster did not take questions after reading the statement.
The Washington Post did not report that Trump discussed “sources or methods” with the Russians, as McMaster claims. The statement does not specifically deny that Trump revealed classified information during the meeting last week.
The sources told the Post Trump disclosed information to Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador about the Islamic State, jeopardizing a critical source of intelligence on ISIS.
Trump revealed “code-word information” and “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our allies,” the source told the Post.
According to the Post, Trump revealed the information during the meeting while appearing to boast about his insider knowledge of a threat to the Western world from ISIS involving the potential use of laptops to conceal explosives on airplanes. “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel everyday,” Trump told the Russian ambassador, according to the Post. Trump then revealed aspects of the threat that the U.S. has learned through espionage capabilities of a key partner. As president, Trump is allowed to declassify information, the Post reports.
“It is all kind of shocking,” a former senior U.S. official who is close to current administration officials told the Post. “Trump seems to be very reckless and doesn’t grasp the gravity of the things he’s dealing with, especially when it comes to intelligence and national security. And it’s all clouded because of this problem he has with Russia.”
The White House and State Department had already denied the report in written statements. The Washington Post broke the story, citing current and former U.S. officials as sources, and the New York Times and Buzzfeed News later confirmed the report, though it is unclear if their sources differ from those who spoke to the Post.
“During President Trump’s meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov a broad range of subjects were discussed among which were common efforts and threats regarding counter-terrorism,” Tillerson said. “During that exchange the nature of specific threats were discussed, but they did not discuss sources, methods or military operations.”
Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell said in a statement, “This story is false. The president only discussed the common threats that both countries faced.”