Late Monday evening, anonymous sources inside the White House disclosed information that has left the Trump administration scrambling with damage control. President Trump, the sources said, had leaked highly classified information to the Russian delegation that had visited him in the White House last week.
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The Washington Post broke the story. And it was a bombshell. Trump, the sources said, had shared details about the ISIS plot to turn laptops into bombs for use on domestic flights.
This news was already public, but the source of the information and the specific details of the intelligence were so highly classified that the US hadn’t yet shared the information with any of our allies, much less our adversarial cohorts in Russia.
Shortly after the news broke, Dina Powell, White House deputy national security adviser for strategy, said “the story is false. The President only discussed the common threats that both countries faced.”
Then National Security Advisor McMaster held a press conference. During the conference, he said that no such leak had occurred. He was there, in the room, and he called the news story a fabrication.
“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,” McMaster read.
“At no time, at no time, where intelligent 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 statement by McMaster seemed to officially put the matter to rest. Those loyal to Trump dismissed the Washington Post story as yet another attempt to pull the president into the spotlight with the Russians.
Tuesday morning, though, brought new information. “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,” he tweeted.
Which version of the White House facts are more factual? That remains to be seen. This has the potential to domino out of control for the Trump administration.