National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, in a White House briefing Tuesday morning, stood by his Monday statement that the recent revelatory Washington Post story is false, opining that President Donald Trump shares information in ways that are “wholly appropriate.”
And yet he said Trump didn't know where the sensitive intelligence on terrorism came from when he shared it with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office last week.
McMaster said the president “wasn't even aware where this information came from,” and he declined to comment on whether it was classified, saying the administration doesn't discuss whether specific information is classified or not.
ABC's Jonathan Karl asked pointedly, “You said that the Washington Post story, which came out late yesterday afternoon, was false. Do you stick by that assertion? Do you think that every element of that story is false, and do you have anything to correct in terms of what you said at the podium yesterday afternoon?”
“No, I stand by my statement that I made yesterday. What I am saying is that the premise of that article is false that in any way the president had a conversation that was inappropriate or that resulted in any kind of lapse in national security.”
But Tuesday morning, the president confused the issue with a tweet that appeared to contradict what McMaster had previously told reporters.
Trump pressed that he's legally able to share important intelligence information as he sees fit, and McMaster confirmed that by arguing that in the context of his conversation with the Russians about the ISIS threat, it was a natural part of the conversation.
Whether specifics of the origin of the information came up — like the city in which it was collected, for example — McMaster pointed out that most White House reporters could probably guess a couple of cities relevant to the ISIS threat. The former lieutenant general suggested that most of the information discussed is public.
Instead, McMaster doubled down on the president's mission to inform the media that a more important issue is the leaking of classified information.
“What I would like to really see debated more is that our national security has been put at risk by those violating confidentiality and those releasing information to the press that could be used to make American citizens and others more vulnerable,” McMaster said.
Asked about reports that other allies might be wary of sharing information with the United States if the president chooses to declassify it by sharing it with other foreign leaders, McMasters said flatly, no.