National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster did not deny that President Donald Trump revealed sensitive information during a meeting with Russian officials last week and seemed to imply that the president did not know the classified nature of the intelligence he reportedly shared.
“I should just make maybe the statement here, the president wasn’t even aware of where this information came from, he wasn’t briefed on the source or method of the information either,” McMaster said during Tuesday’s White House press briefing before abruptly leaving the briefing room.
On Monday, the Washington Post reported that Trump revealed “highly classified” information pertaining to the so-called Islamic State to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a May 10 meeting at the Oval Office.
McMaster said that Trump spontaneously decided to share the information with the Russian officials during the meeting, adding that Trump “made the decision in the context of the conversation.”
However, McMaster asserted that Trump’s decision was “wholly appropriate” and doubled-down on calling the Washington Post story that broke the news “false.”
McMaster: "The premise of that article is false – that in any way the president had a conversation that was inappropriate." pic.twitter.com/kmFypAiFz2— ABC News (@ABC) May 16, 2017
“I stand by my statement that I made yesterday,” McMaster said. “What I’m saying is really the premise of that article is false that in any way the president had a conversation that was inappropriate or that resulted in any kind of lapse in national security.”
While downplaying Trump’s sharing of information with Russian officials, McMaster pivoted toward addressing a common concern among the Trump administration–leaking.
“I think the real issue, and I think what I’d like to see really debated more, is our national security has been put at risk by those violating confidentiality and those releasing information to the press that could be used, connected with other information available, to make American citizens and others more vulnerable,” McMaster said.