Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had a few choice words for the U.S. media during a press conference in Cyprus a few days after the NYT and WaPo unleashed a pair of dubiously sourced accusations about what was said between President Trump and the minister during a meeting in the Oval Office.
“I sometimes get the impression that many U.S. media outlets work according to a principle which was common in the Soviet Union. Back then, people used to joke that the newspaper Pravda Truth] had no truth in it, and the Izvestia [News] paper has no news in it. I get the impression that many U.S. media operate in the same way.”
U.S. media were barred from Lavrov's meeting with Trump in the Oval Office, but that didn’t stop WaPo from reporting that Trump allegedly shared classified information with Lavrov about the source of intelligence that inspired the U.S. to ban travelers from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa from storing laptops in carry-on luggage. The report added that the decision to share that information jeopardized the source in the process. Meanwhile, the NYT reported that Trump said he fired Comey because the FBI director was a “nut job" and that the decision had eased pressures from the FBI's investigation into collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Lavrov has denied that any classified information was shared during the meeting. Though it's important to remember that, even if Trump did share classified intelligence, doing so wouldn't be a violation of U.S. law.
But of course, WaPo has refused to provide evidence to corroborate its story, relying instead on anonymous sourcing and the public’s “trust” in the fourth estate, which unsurprisingly remains at historic lows.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Advisor H.R. MacMaster, both of whom were in the Oval Office during the meeting, have both issued statements denying that any classified information was shared. Russian President Vladimir Putin has even offered to provide a transcript of the conversation, should the White House request it. To our knowledge, no request has been made.
Lavrov also pointed out that the WaPo report contradacts an earlier U.S. media report about the source of the intelligence that led to the laptop ban. WaPo reported that the sensitive information allegedly relayed by Trump had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government.
But months ago, the Daily Beast reported that intelligence leading to the ban was based on information about an ISIS plot gathered during the Yemeni raid that left one Navy SEAL dead just days after Trump’s inauguration.
Three intelligence sources told The Daily Beast that the ban on carry-on electronics aboard U.S.-bound flights from 10 airports in North Africa and the Middle East was the result of information seized during a U.S. raid on Al Qaeda in Yemen in January.
So which is it?