U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and other members of the Trump administration have denied the accuracy of published reports that the president revealed highly classified information to Russian officials in the Oval Office.
The original story, first reported by the Washington Post, “is false,” McMaster told reporters on the White House grounds late Monday. “At no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed and the president did not disclose any military operation that was not already publicly known,” he added.
“I was there. It didn’t happen,” McMaster concluded, then turned around and re-entered the West Wing without answering reporters’ questions.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who said he also attended the May 10 meeting with the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador, backed up McMaster’s characterization of the conversation, adding in a statement that “a broad range of subjects were discussed, among which were common efforts and threats regarding counter-terrorism.”
Several U.S. news organizations reported that the president, in the Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, disclosed information considered highly classified.
Trump appeared to be boasting about inside knowledge of a looming threat to aviation, according to the Washington Post.
The New York Times reported that the information, which was deemed to be especially sensitive, had not even been shared widely within the U.S. government or shared with other allies.
The two newspapers, and others, further said the information could jeopardize a critical source of intelligence about Islamic State and the manner in which it was collected.
A U.S. president has the power to declassify nearly any information, so what Trump did does not appear to be illegal. But intelligence officials, quoted by the newspapers, expressed concern that the information, provided by a U.S. partner government, could harm crucial relationships.
The Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency declined immediate comment when contacted by VOA.