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McMaster pivots blame from Trump to White House leakers

17 May 2017

The latest incident comes just a week after Trump fired Comey.

During the presidential campaign Trump repeatedly assailed his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, for her handling of classified information by email while she was secretary of state.

The same official publicly had refuted The Washington Post report on Monday evening, describing the claims as false.

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster speaks at a press conference about reports that President Donald Trump divulged highly classified information to two top Russian visitors to the Oval Office.

President Donald Trump is using Twitter to defend his sharing of information with the Russians.

In a series of morning tweets, Trump declared he has "an absolute right" as president to share "facts pertaining to terrorism" and airline safety with Russian Federation. Like McMaster, the president neither confirmed nor denied whether the information he revealed was classified.

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While the meeting itself was controversial given the timing (Trump insists it was previously scheduled) and the manner in which the U.S. media was kept out (the official Russian media was given access), the Post story, citing officials and unofficial sources as saying Trump briefed the Russians using classified information, convulsed the United States capital already leery of the President's lack of governing and administrative experience, and suspicion about his ties to Moscow.

"Reports that this information was provided by a USA ally and shared without its knowledge sends a troubling signal to America's allies and partners around the world and may impair their willingness to share intelligence with us in the future", the Arizona Republican's statement said.

Rather, he said the leaks are what put security at risk. The New York Times identified the ally as Israel but two USA national security sources said they doubted the report.

"In the context of that discussion, what the president discussed with the foreign minister was wholly appropriate to that investigation", Mr McMaster said. "Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russian Federation to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism". "It was nothing you wouldn't be able to know from open source reporting". A former intelligence official told CBS News that Mr. Trump discussed "something inappropriate" in the meeting with Russian officials last week.

Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, called the reports "an utter shame", and later posted on her Facebook page that it's "more fake news". But a photographer from Russian state-media Tass attended the meeting and took photos of a laughing Trump with Lavrov and Kislyak.

"Associated Press reporter Paisley Dodds in London".

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In fact, accounts of the Trump-Lavrov/ Kisylak meeting spoke of how the US President boasted of getting the best intelligence. Yet his decision to discuss an ally's information on the Islamic State with other countries could damage his standing with world leaders and lead some countries to start second-guessing their own intelligence-sharing agreements with the U.S.

The CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence have declined to comment.

He'll also attend bilateral meetings with Gulf state leaders and meet and have lunch with leaders of more than 50 Muslim nations where McMaster said Trump will deliver "an inspiring but direct speech" on the need to confront radical ideology. "The President only discussed the common threats that both countries faced".

"At no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed and the President did not disclose any military operations that weren't already publicly known", he said.

On Monday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer had told reporters he hoped to have McMaster brief today on Trump's upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican. White House officials denounced the report, saying the president did not disclose intelligence sources or methods to the Russians, though officials did not deny that classified information was disclosed in the May 10 meeting.

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McMaster pivots blame from Trump to White House leakers