National security adviser H.R. McMaster said Tuesday that the topics discussed between President Donald Trump and two Russian diplomats last week were “wholly appropriate,” as the White House tried to defuse a Washington Post report that the president had shared highly sensitive intelligence.
According to that Post report, Trump shared information sourced from an intelligence-sharing agreement with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and its ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak. At a briefing for reporters on Tuesday, McMaster would not deny that Trump had shared classified information with the Russian officials, saying only that “we don’t say what’s classified, what’s not classified.”
But McMaster did defend the president against allegations that his conversation with Lavrov and Kislyak, whatever its focus, was out of line.
“What I will tell you is in the context of that discussion, 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 any leaders with whom he’s engaged,” McMaster said.
It was the second time in 24 hours that McMaster had addressed reporters on the issue of Trump’s meeting with the Russian diplomats, but the first time he agreed to take questions. Monday evening, it was McMaster who the White House put in front of reporters outside the White House to declare that the Post’s story was “false” and that “at no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed, and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly.”
The president on Tuesday morning offered up his own defense, writing on Twitter that “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 notably did not dispute the Post’s reporting and seemingly confirmed that he had indeed shared information with the Russian diplomats, although he stopped short of confirming that the information was classified.