Dina Powell, a deputy national-security adviser, did deny it, however. “This story is false. The president only discussed the common threats that both countries faced,” she said, according to CNBC’s Eamon Javers.
Later, McMaster read a brief statement to reporters at the White House.
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 who were present, including the secretary of state, remember the meeting the same way and have said so. Their on the record accounts should outweigh the anonymous sources. I was in the room. It didn’t happen.
McMaster’s statement does not specifically take issue with anything in the Post story, or other accounts confirming it. No reports have alleged that Trump discussed sources or methods, nor that unknown military operations were discussed.
Regardless, Trump’s disclosure of the sensitive details, withheld even from American allies, to Russia, an uneasy rival in the Middle East, is yet another jawdropping misstep by a president whose administration thus far is best viewed as a series of errors and gaffes.
The Post story is notable for the direct quotes from the meeting the reporters were able to obtain. Trump’s disclosure to Lavrov and Kislyak appears to have been a deviation from script delivered as the president sought to prove to them the quality of the information he received. An official quoted Trump as boasting, “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day.”
The president’s friendly ties to Russia are already under close scrutiny by the press, Congress, and criminal investigators. While there is widespread agreement in the U.S. government that Russia intervened in the 2016 presidential race in order to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Trump—even Trump now acknowledges this—the FBI is also investigating whether Trump campaign officials colluded with Russia in that effort. Trump denies this.
However, he abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey, who was overseeing that investigation, last week. While the White House initially cited Comey’s handling of a probe into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email address and server while she was secretary of state, Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt that his frustration with the Russia probe played a role, confirming a series of press reports that said Trump was furious at Comey over Russian matters.
The president also produced a letter last week saying his only business ties to Russia consisted of $100 million in income over the last decade or so, but experts who reviewed the letter said it did nothing to prove he did not have worrisome ties in Russia.