- The Washington Times - Monday, May 15, 2017

Top Trump administration officials pushed back against a published report Monday that accused President Trump of revealing classified information about the Islamic State to Russian diplomats in a White House meeting last week.

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson said Mr. Trump did speak with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov about “the nature of specific threats” from the terrorist group, “but they did not discuss sources, methods or military operations.”

He said the Oval Office meeting covered “a broad range of subjects,” including “common efforts and threats regarding counterterrorism.”

The Washington Post, citing anonymous current and former U.S. government officials, published a report Monday afternoon saying the president disclosed highly classified information to the Russians that jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.

The article alleged that Mr. Trump relayed information to the Russian diplomats that had been provided by a U.S. partner, and was considered so sensitive that details had been withheld from allies and restricted within the U.S. government.

The meeting last week occurred in the Oval Office with Mr. Trump, Mr. Lavrov and Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak. It was Mr. Lavrov’s first visit to Washington in four years.

White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, who attended the meeting, said late Monday the story was “false.”

“At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed, and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly,” Mr. McMaster said.

He added that Mr. Trump and Mr. Lavrov “reviewed common threats from terrorist organizations to include threats to aviation.”

In a hastily arranged statement on camera Monday night outside the West Wing, Mr. McMaster also told reporters that there’s nothing the president takes more seriously than the country’s safety. He said the article, “as reported, is false.”

“I was in the room. It didn’t happen,” Mr. McMaster said.

He took no questions from reporters.

Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell, another participant in the meeting last week, also said the story “is false.”

“The president only discussed the common threats that both countries faced,” she said in a statement.

Mr. McMaster said that his on-the-record account of the meeting, together with those of Mr. Tillerson and Ms. Powell, “should outweigh the accounts of anonymous sources.”

The article fueled more criticism of Mr. Trump among congressional Democrats and some Republicans, just as the president was trying to tamp down a furor over his firing last week of FBI Director James B. Comey.

Sen. Mark R. Warner of Virginia, top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, reacted on Twitter to the article, saying “if true, this is a slap in the face to the intel community.”

“Risking sources & methods is inexcusable, particularly with the Russians,” Mr. Warner said.

Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said, “The White House has got to do something soon to bring itself under control and in order. It’s got to happen.”

Sen. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, accused Mr. Trump of “an astounding lack of judgment” and called for a congressional investigation.

“By revealing ‘code-word’ information to Russia, President Trump may have compromised key intelligence sources, endangered the fight against ISIS, and undermined the trust of our international partners,” Mr. Markey said in a statement. “Congress must immediately investigate this irresponsible action and take steps to ensure that Trump does no additional damage to U.S. national security in his dealings with Russia.”

Added Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat: “These reports, if true, are of the gravest possible concern. It could harm our national security by cutting off important sources of intelligence that protect Americans against terrorist acts.”

Sources quoted by The Post said Mr. Trump, in the meeting with Mr. Lavrov, “seemed to be boasting about his inside knowledge of the looming threat.

“I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day,” the president said, according to an official with knowledge of the exchange.

Mr. Trump did not reveal the specific intelligence-gathering method, but described “how the Islamic State was pursuing elements of a specific plot and how much harm such an attack could cause under varying circumstances,” the article stated.

He also allegedly revealed the city in Islamic State territory where the U.S. intelligence partner detected the threat, The Post said.

The top Democrats on the House Oversight and House Judiciary committees pounced on the report, saying they didn’t know if it was true but nevertheless condemned Mr. Trump’s conduct.

“We need to be clear, we do not know if these allegations are true or false, but if — IF — these allegations are true, President Trump may have just disclosed top secret information to the Russians and possibly jeopardized an intelligence source in the process,” said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland and Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan.

Mr. Cummings is the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Mr. Conyers is the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee. 

“This is the same meeting in which Russian officials laughed with the President in front of Russian photographers inside the Oval Office while members of the American press were excluded,” they said, referring to official photos published by Russian media. “After an unprecedented week in which many thought it would be impossible for President Trump to be any more irresponsible, he now may have sunk to a dangerous new low.”

They demanded all House members receive a briefing by the national security adviser and the directors of our nation’s intelligence agencies.

Tom Howell Jr. and S.A. Miller contributed to this report.


 

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