JERUSALEM — President Donald Trump on Monday told reporters here that he “never mentioned” Israel during a White House meeting two weeks ago with Russian officials.
He went on to accuse the news media of getting the story wrong. Trump was referring to a news making New York Times report quoting a “current and a former American official” claiming it was Israel that provided alleged classified intelligence purportedly disclosed by Trump to Russian officials during the recent meeting.
“Just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name ‘Israel,’” Trump told reporters here after making brief statements with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Never mentioned it during the conversation [with the Russians].”
“They’re all saying I did, so you have another story wrong,” he said to the assembled reporters. “Never mentioned the word Israel.”
Trump was speaking spontaneously after reporters shouted questions at him at the conclusion of a joint statement with Netanyahu. The Israeli prime minister referred to U.S.-Israel security cooperation as “terrific.”
The Times report did not claim that Trump disclosed to the Russians that Israel was allegedly the source of the information purported to be about the inner workings of the Islamic State as reportedly discussed with the Russians.
The Times’ claim followed a Washington Post exclusive that first reported the purported classified information was allegedly revealed by Trump during a meeting with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador. The Post report cited “current and former U.S. officials.”
Indeed, it was the Times that first outed Israel as the alleged source of the information. The Times’ article failed to note its own report, if accurate, could endanger Israel’s antiterrorism intelligence collection operations.
The Post article acknowledged that as president “Trump has broad authority to declassify government secrets, making it unlikely that his disclosures broke the law.”
The Times cited Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, as telling reporters that Trump was not aware of the source of the information.
Israeli officials reached by the Times would not confirm that Israel provided the intelligence, which reportedly concerns the inner workings of the Islamic State.
McMaster told the Post that “the president and the foreign minister reviewed common threats from terrorist organizations to include threats to aviation.”
“At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed, and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly,” McMaster stated.
Later, McMaster stated the leak may put U.S. national security at risk. “I think national security is put at risk by this leak and by leaks like this,” he said. “And there are a number of instances where this has occurred and I think it’s important to investigate these sort of things.”
Trump tweeted he has the “absolute right” as president to share 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….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017
The Post claimed the information was provided through an unnamed U.S. ally:
The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.
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.
The Times outed that ally as Israel, citing a “current and a former American official familiar with how the United States obtained the information.”
In January, Israel’s respected Yediot Ahronot newspaper reported U.S. intelligence officials from the Obama administration warned their Israeli counterparts not to trust then President-elect Trump with intelligence secrets, citing alleged fears that Russia held blackmail information over Trump. Those fears seemed to have been in part referencing the now partially debunked infamous dossier claiming that Russia collected compromising videos of Trump.
The dossier, which contains wild and unproven claims about Trump and sordid sexual acts, including the mocked claim that Trump hired prostitutes and had them urinate on a hotel room bed, was compiled by former intelligence agent Christopher Steele, who was reportedly paid by Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans to investigate Trump.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration faced its share of accusations that it leaked sensitive Israeli intelligence or military operations.
In November 2013, Israeli officials were reportedly furious at the Obama White House for confirming the Israeli Air Force was behind a strike on a Syrian military base. Israeli policy is not to confirm strikes carried out beyond its borders.
The Times of Israel reported at the time:
Israel’s Channel 10 TV on Friday night quoted Israeli officials branding the American leak as “scandalous.” For Israel’s ally to be acting in this way was “unthinkable,” the officials were quoted as saying.
A second TV report, on Israel’s Channel 2, said the leak “came directly from the White House,” and noted that “this is not the first time” that the administration has compromised Israel by leaking information on such Israeli Air Force raids on Syrian targets.
It said some previous leaks were believed to have come from the Pentagon, and that consideration had been given at one point to establishing a panel to investigate the sources.
In 2012, Israel suspected the Obama administration had leaked information to prevent the Jewish state from striking Iran’s nuclear facilities.
ABC News reported at the time:
The first report in Foreign Policy quotes anonymous American officials saying that Israel has been given access to airbases by Iran’s northern neighbor Azerbaijan from which Israel could launch air strikes or at least drones and search and rescue aircraft.
The second report from Bloomberg, based on a leaked congressional report, said that Iran’s nuclear facilities are so dispersed that it is “unclear what the ultimate effect of a strike would be…” A strike could delay Iran as little as six months, a former official told the researchers.
“It seems like a big campaign to prevent Israel from attacking,” analyst Yoel Guzansky at the Institute for National Security Studies told ABC News. “I think the [Obama] administration is really worried Jerusalem will attack and attack soon. They’re trying hard to prevent it in so many ways.”
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, Aaron Klein Investigative Radio. Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.