Speaking to repoters on Tuesday, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said President Trump did not put intelligence assets in jeopardy by revealing highly sensitive information to Russian officials, adding that Trump did not know where the intel came from and that the conversation in the Oval Office last week was “wholly appropriate.”
“I stand by my statement that I made yesterday,” McMaster said. “What I’m saying is that the premise of that article was false" and that “what the president discussed with the foreign minister was wholly appropriate for that conversation.” He did however refused to describe what Trump told the Russian diplomats, or acknowledge that classified information was shared with them.
“I’m not concerned at all” that U.S. allies might stop sharing intelligence after Trump’s disclosure, he added.
McMaster said Trump could not have endangered national security because he did not even know the source of the information he discussed. "The president wasn’t even aware of where this information came from" as "he wasn’t briefed on the source."
McMaster: Pres. Trump "wasn't even aware of where this information came from" before discussing information with Russian foreign minister. pic.twitter.com/BOCY2WGAtq— ABC News (@ABC) May 16, 2017
"The president in no way undermined sources or methods in the course of this conversation,” he also said adding that the information could be found in "open-source reporting."
“At no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed, and the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known,” he said.
While McMaster did not deny that Trump discussed highly classified information during the May 10 meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Moscow's U.S. ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, he attacked leakers who revealed the contents of the discussion to media outlets, saying that was the story that should be getting more attention.
He echoed Trump in blaming leakers within the government for any breach of security. “The premise of that article was false” McMaster, who was present at last week’s meeting, told reporters at a briefing.
“The premise of that article was false” McMaster saod. “The really issue is our national security has been put at risk by those violating confidentiality and releasing information to the press.” "I think national security is put at risk by this leak and leaks like this." McMaster also hinted that the administration would conduct a broader investigation into the leaks that led to the reports. "It’s incumbent on all of us to bring in the people with the right mandate and the right authorities to take a look at how this leak occurred and how other breaches may have occurred as well," he said.
Earlier on Tuesday, Trump claimed an “absolute right” to share information about terrorism with Russian officials, even as some lawmakers in both parties expressed alarm over the reports. “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,” Trump said in a series of tweets on Tuesday. “Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.”
Democrats, and even some Republicans lambasted Trump's revelation, saying it could put sources at risk and alienate key intelligence-sharing partners. Several lawmakers have called on the administration to release transcripts of the conversation to clear up confusion about it.