McMaster on WaPo claim Trump gave Russians highly classified info: “I was in the room, it didn’t happen”
“The story that came out tonight as reported is false.”
The Washington Post ran a story late this afternoon claiming Donald Trump, in his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister and Ambassador, disclosed highly classified information, including information that could reveal sources and methods.
Despite the length of the story, the allegations of substance are all in this single paragraph:
Trump went on to discuss aspects of the threat that the United States learned only through the espionage capabilities of a key partner. He did not reveal the specific intelligence-gathering method, but he described how the Islamic State was pursuing elements of a specific plot and how much harm such an attack could cause under varying circumstances. Most alarmingly, officials said, Trump revealed the city in the Islamic State’s territory where the U.S. intelligence partner detected the threat.
From that, WaPo argues:
The identification of the location was seen as particularly problematic, officials said, because Russia could use that detail to help identify the U.S. ally or intelligence capability involved. Officials said the capability could be useful for other purposes, possibly providing intelligence on Russia’s presence in Syria. Moscow would be keenly interested in identifying that source and perhaps disrupting it.
Russia and the United States both regard the Islamic State as an enemy and share limited information about terrorist threats. But the two nations have competing agendas in Syria, where Moscow has deployed military assets and personnel to support President Bashar al-Assad.
“Russia could identify our sources or techniques,” the senior U.S. official said.
A former intelligence official who handled high-level intelligence on Russia said that given the clues Trump provided, “I don’t think that it would be that hard [for Russian spy services] to figure this out.”
It’s important that the story, as written, does not say Trump exposed any sources. It says revealing the name of the city where the information was discovered could lead the Russians to figure out the source. There’s no way of assessing that, but it’s a matter of opinion not fact.
The story set the internet on fire, with the WaPo newsroom cheering as the incoming traffic numbers showed levels higher than even the Trump Access Hollywood tape story:
The reaction from #NeverTrump “conservatives” was among the most disgusting I’ve ever seen — there was absolute joy to the point of giddiness that Trump was going down.
There were a few voices, including me, urging caution, since almost every mainstream media anonymously sourced report on the Comey firing was wrong. Two excellent sources on that are What a breathless media got wrong about Trump, Comey and Russia this week and 8 FACTS Contradict The MSM’s Serial-Comey Lies.
It took a couple of hours for the White House to respond, and the response was fairly emphatic that the story was a lie. Every single person in the room denied the WaPo story.
Deputy National Security Advisor Dina Powell issued a statement as follows:
“This story is false. The president only discussed the common threats that both countries faced.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued this statement:
“During President Trump’s meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov, a broad range of subjects were discussed among which were common efforts and threats regarding counter-terrorism. During that exchange the nature of specific threats were discussed, but they did not discuss sources, methods or military operations.”
National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster issued a statement denying the story, one he repeated even more emphatically when he appeared before the cameras (emphasis added):
A brief statement for the record. There is nothing that the president takes more seriously than the security of the American people. The story that came out tonight as reported is false. The president of the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation. At no time, at no time, where intelligence sources or methods discussed. The president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known. Two other senior officials who were present, including the secretary of the state, remember the meeting the same way and have said so. Going on the record should outweigh the anonymous sources. I was in the room. It didn’t happen. Thanks, everybody.
The spin against McMaster is that he denied things that WaPo didn’t report, an evasive move. But in fact, McMaster was specific to deny “the story … as reported.” That leaves no wiggle room.
So all three American officials who were present are denying the WaPo story.
More facts will come out, but at this moment there is a lesson we’ve been learning a lot when it comes to media coverage of the Trump administration: Don’t accept at face value any media report about Trump that relies on anonymous sources.
Note: For greater precision, shortly after publication I added the words “information that could reveal” to the first sentence.DONATE
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