There’s a lot flying around about yesterday’s Washington Post story, so much so that I’ve been trying this morning to distill what we know versus what is being claimed.
First let’s start with the Washington Post story. They make two central claims in their story:
President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.
1. Trump shared sensitive classified information with the Russians
2. By sharing that info Trump may have jeopardized the source of that information
The second item is clearly the impetus for the report.
They go on to explain how that source may have been jeopardized:
The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said Trump’s decision to do so endangers cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State.
So basically they are suggesting that the ally wouldn’t approve of Trump sharing the information with the Russians, and therefore may not cooperate with the US any longer.
So that’s the claims as I understand them by the Washington Post.
Yesterday both Tillerson and McMaster denied that the Washington Post story was true.
“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,” Tillerson told reporters at the White House Monday evening. “During that exchange the nature of specific threats were discussed, but they did not discuss sources, methods or military operations.”
There’s 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 and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation. At no time, at no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed, and the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known. Two other senior officials present, including the Secretary of State, remember the meeting the same way and have said so. Their on the record accounts should outweigh those of anonymous sources. I was in the room, it didn’t happen.
So basically they are saying the same thing. Tillerson admits that the nature of specific threats were discussed and McMaster suggests the same, adding that it dealt with civil aviation. And they both say that no sources, methods, and military operations were discussed.
Trump them came out this morning and tweeted the following:
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….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017
…to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017
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. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.
Trump basically says the same thing as McMaster and Tillerson, with regard to the information that was shared, adding only motive to the equation.
Earlier I assumed this was classified information based on Trump’s tweet where it says “which I have the absolute right to do so”, but nothing stated by Trump, McMaster, and Tillerson actually say that he shared classified information. I just wanted to point that out clearly.
Now I’ve seen media reports that suggest that what Trump tweeted contradicted what both McMaster and Tillerson said in their statements, but that’s not really true unless you start making assumptions.
I’ve also noticed that some are suggesting that McMaster and Tillerson lied yesterday, but again, that’s not true unless you are making assumptions.
There is one point I do want to make, though, that I think is relevant.
When McMaster said in his statement “The story that came out tonight, as reported, is false.”, some argued he was making a categorical statement about the entire report and thus was denying that classified information was shared.
But as I pointed out above, the entire impetus of the report was that Trump may have jeopardized a source when sharing this classified information. And when I read McMaster’s statement in its entirety, it seems to me he’s referring more to the reason for the story being false.
But it’s not completely clear and I hope McMaster clears this up today.
So that’s where we are at this point with what we know and we’ll report more on this when we have it, which looks to be shortly as the White House press briefing is about ready to begin.