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McMaster says Trump's talks with Russia were 'wholly appropriate,' won't say if information was classified

  • The national security advisor said President Donald Trump's conversation with Russian diplomats was "wholly appropriate."
  • McMaster did not confirm or deny if the information shared was classified.

National security advisor H.R. McMaster said Tuesday that President Donald Trump's recent talks with Russian diplomats were "wholly appropriate," without confirming or denying whether the information he shared was classified.

McMaster added that Trump decided during the conversation to share the information with Russia's foreign minister and ambassador to the U.S., suggesting that the White House had not planned to reveal it beforehand.

"He made the decision in the context of the conversations, which is wholly appropriate," McMaster told reporters.

Trump reportedly shared highly classified information with top Russian officials during a closed-door meeting last week, according to The Washington Post and others. Trump tweeted Tuesday that he did give the Russians information for counterterrorism purposes, noting that he has the "absolute right" to do so. Like McMaster, the president neither confirmed nor denied whether the information he revealed was classified.

McMaster contended that Trump did nothing to compromise national security. He added that Trump was not briefed on the source of the information and reiterated that the president did not reveal any sources or methods for gathering it. The Washington Post did not report that Trump revealed sources.

"What I'm saying is really the premise of that (Washington Post) article was false, that in any
way the president had a conversation that was inappropriate or resulted in any kind of lapse in national security," McMaster said.

The president can legally share classified information when he deems it necessary.

Former CIA Director and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, among others, said Tuesday that sharing classified information could threaten intelligence gathering and the ability to stop potential threats. On Tuesday, The Associated Press reported that a senior European official said on condition of anonymity that his country may stop sharing intelligence with the U.S. if Trump gave classified information to Russian diplomats.

McMaster said Tuesday that he does not think Trump's conversation will disrupt intelligence sharing or relationships with allies.

Watch: McMaster's original statement