The information shared by President Donald Trump in a recent meeting with Russian officials was “wholly appropriate,” National Security Advisor Gen. H.R. McMaster said.
“None of us felt, in any way, that that conversation was inappropriate,” McMaster told reporters at the White House on Tuesday, adding that the information was within reason to the topic being discussed.
A day before McMaster addressed the media, the Washington Post published a story citing anonymous officials who said Trump had revealed highly classified information about Islamic State militants to the Russians.
The anonymous officials told the Post that the information Trump relayed during the Oval Office meeting had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement. They said it was considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government.
The Post report claimed Trump’s decision may have jeopardized cooperation from an ally familiar with the inner workings of ISIS. McMaster said Trump was unaware of the source of the information when he chose to share it with the Russians.
“The president wasn’t even aware from where this information came from,” McMaster, who was in the room during the meeting, said. “He wasn’t briefed on the source of the information.”
White House officials have taken steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency, the newspaper said.
On Monday, McMaster denied classified information was shared. He echoed that stance on Tuesday.
“It was nothing that you would not know from open-source reporting,” he told media, reiterating that the information was about ongoing operations that have been public for months.
McMaster said the Post report is an indication Trump’s administration should consider bringing in the right people to examine how stories are continuously leaked from the White House.
“I think the real issue and what I would really like to see debated more are those violating confidentiality,” he said.
The Post report was met with raised eyebrows on both side of the aisle in Congress.
“We certainly don’t want any president to leak classified information, but the president does have the right to do that,” McCain told reporters in Washington, D.C.
Several Democrats criticized the president’s decision, while Trump has claimed he has “an absolute right” to share “facts pertaining to terrorism.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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