Small Wars Journal

McMaster: Trump Talk with Russians 'Wholly Appropriate'

McMaster: Trump Talk with Russians 'Wholly Appropriate'

Steve Herman

Voice of America

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster speaks during a briefing at the White House in Washington, May 16, 2017.

U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Tuesday that information about terrorism and threats to international aviation that President Donald Trump shared with Russian diplomats last week was “wholly appropriate” and did not compromise U.S. intelligence sources.

McMaster stood by his account from the day before, that the premise of U.S. news accounts was false that Trump had divulged highly classified information to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Moscow’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, in a meeting at the White House.

“I’m not concerned at all,” said McMaster, who was at the Oval Office meeting. “That conversation was wholly appropriate to the conversation, and I think wholly appropriate with the expectation of our intelligence partners.”

The news accounts, first in The Washington Post and later other publications, said that Trump’s comments about a possible Islamic State airline terrorist attack were specific enough that it could have given the Russian envoys enough information to determine the U.S. intelligence source, a government with an intelligence-sharing agreement with Washington and one that had not agreed that the U.S. could share the information with Russia.

“The president in no way compromised any sources,” McMaster said.

The national security adviser’s remarks came hours after Trump defended his “absolute right” to share information with the two Russian diplomats.

In early morning Twitter comments, Trump said he wanted to pass on “facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety” as he met with Lavrov and Kislyak, and urge Russia to "greatly step up their fight" against Islamic State and terrorists.

Trump appeared to be boasting about inside knowledge of a looming threat to aviation, according to The Post.

The New York Times reported that the information, which was deemed to be especially sensitive, had not even been shared widely within the U.S. government or shared with other allies.

The two newspapers, and others, further said the information could jeopardize a critical source of intelligence about Islamic State and the manner in which it was collected.

A U.S. president has the power to declassify nearly any information, so what Trump did does not appear to be illegal. But intelligence officials, quoted by the newspapers, expressed concern that the information, provided by a U.S. partner government, could harm crucial international relationships.

As he defended his disclosure Tuesday, Trump also said that from the beginning of his administration in January he has been pressuring the Federal Bureau of Investigation and others in the U.S. government "to find the LEAKERS in the intelligence community." After-the-fact published reports of Trump's interactions with foreign leaders have at times angered him.

Before Trump's Twitter comments, McMaster and other members of Trump's administration on Monday had denied the accuracy of the news reports on Trump's meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak.

As the controversy over Trump's remarks unfolded, the Senate majority leader, Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, gently chided the president.

"We could do with a little less drama from the White House on a lot of things so we can focus on our agenda," McConnell told Bloomberg Television.

Other lawmakers voiced concerns about Trump's revelations to the Russians.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer called for the White House to release a transcript of Trump’s meeting with the Russian officials to lawmakers on congressional intelligence committees.

Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse told VOA that Trump "has the ability to disclose classified information. That doesn’t make it right. And where it’s sensitive and could put sensitive relationships and sources at risk, it’s just as dangerous whether it’s legal or not."

Another Democrat, Senator Mark Warner, said, "There are a whole host of issues here, both legal and strategic — trusted allies, trust of our intelligence community. And it seems we have one more action by this president that continues to show a pattern of, frankly, disrespecting and disregarding the leadership of the intelligence community.”

Republican Senator John McCain, a key foreign affairs expert, said Trump's disclosure risked the cooperation of allies in future intelligence-gathering operations. "It’s a serious concern and we have to know who it is he [Trump] may have unmasked [the intelligence source] by giving that information" to the Russian officials, McCain said.

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman on Tuesday denied that Trump revealed any classified information at last week's meeting, calling the reports "fake."

The Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency declined immediate comment when contacted by VOA.

Since the early days of the Trump administration, the president’s apparent willingness to work with Russia has had some U.S. allies ill at ease.

"It's a key concern," a Western diplomatic official who spoke on condition of anonymity told VOA at the time. "Russia has been a very disruptive player."

But some former intelligence officials think the repercussions from the Oval Office meeting will be minimal, if any.

“No damage - no sources or methods revealed,” said Michael Pregent, a former intelligence officer now with the Hudson Institute, a Washington think tank.

Pregent, who worked with McMaster in Iraq, said it is unlikely the national security adviser would have allowed the president to cross any lines.

The story broke as the White House remains embroiled in controversy over Trump's firing last week of FBI Director James Comey. That occurred one day prior to the Oval Office meeting with the Russians.

The FBI is investigating alleged links between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia.


Outlaw 09

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 1:31pm

Army officer who served with H.R. McMaster: He's 'walking a very fine line around the truth'

If this is true then it goes to a serious McMaster failure....evidently he did not fully realize the CT importance of the information Trump had passed to the Russians since he is not steeped in CT nor has deep CT experience......

Well this is a pretty startling detail 

Outlaw 09

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 5:30am

In reply to by cammo99

You do realize that in the Comey memo in the NYTs article where Trump basically indicated he wanted the Flynn Russian ties investigation to stop...he also alluded to Comey that the FBI should be arresting USA reporters and placing them in jail....

Messing again with the so called cornerstone pillars of US democracy...the judicial system and the fourth press...

Outlaw 09

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 4:48am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

cammo99...well worth reading and then rereading....

Translating McMaster: brilliant @GlennKesslerWP dissection of the White House denial…

The Bottom Line
In the course of two media appearances, McMaster essentially confirmed that:

These are the key factual elements of the Post article.

The only real issue in dispute is whether Trump’s actions hurt the intelligence-gathering methods of the United States and intelligence cooperation with friendly countries.

That will be up to the judgment of history.

Outlaw 09

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 4:38am

In reply to by cammo99

Ahhhhh...the smell of napalm in the early morning...where to start.

Your oath to the Constitution if you are in the military and or have previously served is as follows.....and or you are a civil service employee.....

"to defend the Constitution from domestic and foreign enemies" or as some say enemies "near and far".

INTERESTINGLY the President only has an oath that states "to defend the Constitution"...says nothing about "enemies near and far"......

WHY is that because the founding fathers felt he would fully understand the Constitution and the three pillars of American democracy....the executive, the legislative and the Courts....which US has over the years claimed that this is the "checks and balances that ensures US democracy" WHICH by the way is anchored nowhere in either the Bill of Rights and or the Constitution....

In the defence of the Constitution one has to fully understand the Rule of Law.....and as such the Federal rules/laws on the handling of classified materials.

THERE is absolutely no reason for any US President regardless of party to reveal TS/SCI (SAP) and CODE WORD intelligence to anyone not approved to see it under the US rules of law on the handling of classified materials ESPECIALLY at this level of classification.

The last time I checked the database of those holding an active security clearance Russian FM Lavrov and his TASS propaganda media photographer DID NOT have a US security clearance...NOR was the equipment of the photographer screened upon entering the Oval Office.

NOW we have the distinct possibility that the deep agent Israel placed into IS will be found and killed and BTW IS is good at rooting out spies...

REMEMBER it takes years to work one into the inner circle...and Trump destroyed those years of hard work DUE to his ego and loose lips...

McMaster knows this and should have shutdown the conversation the second Trump uttered a single word about this type of intelligence...

ESPECIALLY since McMaster yesterday stated Trump did not know where the intel came and it was a sudden urge on his part to just say something to impress the Russians....

He is an active USA General and knows the rules for handling classified materials BUT at the same time he is selected by a President and serves at the pleasure of Presidents NOT the US if he has to lie to protect Trump he will lie like a rug and not look back....

HERE though is the catch...McMaster built his image on the so called "speaking truth to power" and in this case he caved badly....

IF one took his comments yesterday...he tap danced like crazy to not say Trump actually gave away highly classified to a Russian agent of the Putin regime and an uncleared cameraman. REMEMBER Larvor is an old guard former Communist Party member and they have never changed their stripes...

DID you not notice nor completely read the Wapo article as well as NYTs and the CNN reports....AT no time did they reveal methods and sources EVEN though they had both at the request of the CIA and NSA.....and still they do not mention them....

BUT the Trump WH, McMaster and Trump himself attacked them for revealing methods and sources WHICH was not even in the articles...they all simply stated Trump passed highly classified info without clearing it from now we know to have been from Israel....

Russian propaganda works on the &Ds principles to be effective.....

Distort...Deflect...Dismay...ALL designed to create Doubt and Distrust...

BUT gets better....then the Trump WH spokespeople...all of them including the Trump tweet started bashing the "leaker" of the highly classified info....

BUT WAIT...everyone knows who it was...came from the Trump WH inner circle very proTrump advisor who recognized the seriousness of the security violation and immediately notified CIA and NSA...BUT no one inside the WH is saying that are they???

One of the most important powers of a President is his creditability...and even you have to admit that in the face of constantly proven lies and tweets and his ranting about Muslims, fakes news, fake MSM, leakers when he and his staff leaks, and on and on...

Trump basically has no creditability....

Example....Trump burnt during his Russian meeting a deep Israeli agent and then Trump is going to how will those meetings go???

He was recently reminded by the Israeli's that he had in fact told them he was going to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem EVEN though his own WH denies that decision has been made...they even reminded him that they had recorded the phone call..

AND he is suppose to be scheduled to give a speech on Islam in how will that go in the face of his stated Muslim Ban objectives...WHO in the ME/Europe will even begin to believe what he says in the face of his words and actions??

AND Erdogan...Trump boasted that he is this great "deal maker" and would resolve the Raqqa/Kurdish issues that concerned Turkey...WELL lo and behold Trump failed badly yesterday and based on Turkish media this morning the Erdogan camp will now cross into Syria and take care of unfinished business with the Kurds even if US SOF are with them.....and the USAF might in fact lose the only Turkish airfield they have use of next to Syria...

You cannot throw countless hand grenades and at the same time declare yourself the "peace maker"....

To what end would the DNC and some Republicans proclaim their false assumptions as fact and why?
One narrative is, The Obama Presidency enabled the Islamic State, repudiated the term radical Islamic and even took administrative action against people in our government that recognized and stated the facts. Under Comey the FBI steered investigations of lone wolf terrorist attacks influenced by the Islamic State away from the facts and even tried to pin it on "work place incidents", stress in the military, even in some instances like Oralnado and the Times Square car bomb towards white Christian supremacists etc.,. It wasn't until Obama left office the FBI finally confirmed what everyone knew the Orlando murders was not the act of some crazed Christian extremist but an agent inspired by the Islamic State, sorry to break it to the LGBTs, and the same was true of Fort Lauderdale.
Obama left a USG thoroughly infiltrated by useful infidels and representatives of a terrorist organization, the Muslim Brotherhood.

It should not surprise anyone that in each case of desperate opposition to President Trump's appointments whether it was LTG Flynn or filling the post of Secretary of the Army the shift to stating outright radical Islam exists and is a danger to western civilization is opposed by the party that treated such proofs as Islamophobic. Such is the case of President Trump discussing aspects that are specific to the Islamic State.

LTG McMaster's was and is 100% correct, the Washington Post got it all wrong, and repeated Islamic extremist gossip in its continued useful infidel idiocy.
The narrative I have offered is no less fanciful than the narratives the DNC is spinning. And it has the added weight that President Trump is the legitimate President of the USA. The DNC Rhino GOP narrative is based on the falsehood President Trump is not the legitimate President of the USA.
My oath was made to the Constitution, obviously I had little respect for the last President but when he was in office, he was The President. I respected the Office and gave the man his due. President Obama was the President of the USA. President Trump is the President of the USA. Ir seems like all parties need to be reminded.