National Security Adviser Refutes WaPo Report: 'It Didn't Happen'; Trump Says He 'Shared Facts' With Russia

By Susan Jones | May 16, 2017 | 5:17 AM EDT

The Russian Foreign Ministry tweeted a photo of President Trump and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov shaking hands in the Oval Office on Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

(CNSNews.com) - In two tweets around 7 a.m. Tuesday, President Trump addressed the latest White House controversy involving his discussion with Russian diplomats in an Oval Office meeting last week: 

"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."

An hour later, Trump issued a third tweet: "I have been asking Director Comey & others, from the beginning of my administration, to find the LEAKERS in the intelligence community....."

In a major leak to the Washington Post on Monday, unnamed "current and former U.S. officials" said President Trump "revealed highly classified information" to the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador at a White House meeting last week.

According to the newspaer, those officials "said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.”

President Trump's National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster released a statement Monday evening, refuting the anonymously-sourced Washington Post report.

“It didn’t happen,” McMaster told reporters, as he read the following statement:

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 those of anonymous sources.

And I was in the room. It didn't happen.

According to the Washington Post, the U.S. reportedly received the information from a “U.S. partner” as part of a top-secret intelligence-sharing agreement that was not even disclosed to close U.S. allies.

“The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said Trump’s decision to do so endangers cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. After Trump’s meeting, senior White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency,” the Post reported.

In his Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, Trump reportedly “went off script and began describing details of an Islamic State terrorist threat related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft.”

But the Post also noted that Trump, as president, “has broad authority to declassify government secrets, making it unlikely that his disclosures broke the law.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also released a statement late Monday, saying:

"During President Trump's meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov, a broad range of subjects were discussed among which were common efforts and threats regarding counter-terrorism. During that exchange the nature of specific threats were discussed, but they did not discuss sources, methods or military operations."

But according to the person who leaked information to the Washington Post:

In his meeting with Lavrov, Trump seemed to be boasting about his inside knowledge of the looming threat. “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day,” the president said, according to an official with knowledge of the exchange.

Trump went on to discuss aspects of the threat that the United States learned only through the espionage capabilities of a key partner. He did not reveal the specific intelligence-gathering method, but he described how the Islamic State was pursuing elements of a specific plot and how much harm such an attack could cause under varying circumstances. Most alarmingly, officials said, Trump revealed the city in the Islamic State’s territory where the U.S. intelligence partner detected the threat.

Democrats pounced on the report that the National Security Adviser refuted. And Trump's many critics -- already furious about the firing of FBI Director James Comey, among other White House controversies -- are expected to pile on as Tuesday progresses.

The Democrat National Committee on Monday night released a long list of Trump’s past comments, in which he criticized others for releasing classified information. “Trump should look in the mirror,” the DNC said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, appearing on a CNN town hall Monday night, denounced Trump’s “messy approach to intelligence” as “very endangering."

Pelosi said even if President Trump didn't directly reveal a "source or method" of intelligence collection, what he did say "could be traced very directly to a source and method."

“We cannot have the president of the United States being casually loose lipped about confirming something, even if it's in the public domain, to an adversarial nation,” Pelosi said.

"This is the most serious accusation ever made against a sitting president relating to national security -- if it's true," defense attorney and constitutional law scholar Alan Dershowitz told CNN Monday night. "I can't think of any other president who has ever put iin danger the national security, if it's true."

The New York Daily News declared Trump “Leaker of the Free World” in a blazing headline on Tuesday.