May 17, 2017
Military.com: by Brendan McGarry
President Donald Trump’s national security adviser on Tuesday pushed back against reports that the commander-in-chief shared classified intelligence with Russian officials.
Army Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster during a press briefing at the White House defended as “wholly appropriate” Trump’s decision to share information about an Islamic State threat with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during a May 11 meeting in the Oval Office.
“What the president discussed with the foreign minister was wholly appropriate to that conversation and is consistent with the routine sharing of information between the president and — and any leaders with whom he’s engaged,” McMaster said.
The Washington Post on Monday reported Trump shared “highly classified” information with the Russians during the meeting — information obtained from an ally through a secret intelligence-sharing program — and that the disclosure “jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.” The New York Times on Tuesday reported the ally was Israel.
Afterward, McMaster, who attended the meeting, said The Washington Post story was untrue.
“The story that came out tonight as reported is false,” he said. “The president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation. At no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed. And the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known.”
The general said other senior officials present, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy Dina Powell, “remember the meeting the same way and have said so. Their on-the-record accounts should outweigh those of anonymous sources. And I was in the room. It didn’t happen.”
On Tuesday, Trump confirmed sharing information with the Russian officials.
“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 … to terrorism and airline flight safety,” he tweeted. “Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.”
The president added, “I have been asking Director Comey & others, from the beginning of my administration, to find the LEAKERS in the intelligence community,” referring to FBI Director James Comey, whom he fired the day before meeting with the Russian officials.
On Tuesday, McMaster shifted how he characterized the Washington Post story.
While he said, “I stand by my statement that I made yesterday,” McMaster also 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 — in national security.”
The general also echoed Trump’s criticism of officials who leak national-security information to the media.
“The real issue, and I think what I’d like to see really debated more, is that our national security has been put at risk by those violating confidentiality, and those releasing information to the press that — that could be used, connected with other information available, to make American citizens and others more vulnerable.”
It wasn’t immediately clear what type of threats to civil aviation were mentioned during the meeting.
The Homeland Security Department recently banned laptops and other electronics on inbound flights from several countries in the Middle East — Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Qatar, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates — and is now considering doing the same on flights from European countries.
McMaster wouldn’t confirm whether the information Trump raised in the meeting was classified.
“We don’t say what’s classified, what’s not classified,” he said.
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Disclaimer: This article was not written by Silent Soldier.