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H. R. McMaster Archive
  National Security Adviser Defends Presidents Disclosure of Classified...  CSPAN  May 16, 2017 12:41pm-12:54pm EDT

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[background sounds] >> turkish president greeted at the white house by president trump. a couple of questions shouted out by reporters on the side. the two are expected to hold a joint news conference that will happen at the top of the hour, 1:00 p.m. eastern. we will bring that live on c-span2. earlier today at the white house, hr mcmaster held a briefing where he answered questions about president trump's meeting with the russian ambassador and intelligence information. >> general mcmaster. [inaudible] you said the washington post
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story that came out was false. do stick by that assertion? do you think every element of the story is false and you have anything to correct in terms of what you said at the podium yesterday afternoon. >> i stand by my statement that i made yesterday. what i'm saying is the premise of that article is false. that in any way that th the president have a conversation that was inappropriate or caused a lapse in national security. the real issue and what i would like to see debated more is better national security has been put at risk by those violating confidentiality and those releasing information to the press that could be connected with other information available to make american citizens and others more vulnerable. >> was classified information released? [inaudible] does the president believe
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that the western wall. [inaudible] >> no is really leaders will join president trump at the western wall. he is going with the theme to connect with three of the world's great religions and to advance and pay homage to these sites, but also to highlight the theme that we all have to be united against what are the rea enemy against all civilized people and we have to join together with an agenda of tolerance and moderation. >> i just want to get some details of this reporting on the conversation with the russian. are you denying he revealed information that was given to the u.s. by an intelligence
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partner? >> what we don't do is discuss what is and isn't classified. what i will tell you is in the context of that discussion, what the president discussed with the minister was wholly appropriate to that conversation and is consistent with the routine sharing of information between the president and any leaders with whom he is engaged. >> was information received from an intelligence partner. >> i'm not going to be the one to confirm that sort of information. it could jeopardize our security. >> will those allies stop providing that information to the u.s.? is that a concern. >> no, i am not concerned. the conversation was appropriat appropriate. >> have you reached out to foreign partners who might've contributed such information to the u.s. and talk to them and try to reassure them. if so what was the reaction. >> i have not and i'm not sure what conversations have been held about that. >> if there was nothing that the president shared that he shouldn't of shared, why did the counterterrorism advisor contact the nsa and cia.
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>> may be from an over abundance of caution. i'm not sure. i haven't spoken to him about why he reached out. >> i was in the room, the secretary of state was in the room, the deputy assistant, the deputy advisor for national security and none of us felt in any way that conversation was inappropriate.
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>> when was the decision made to share that information with the russians. did he spontaneously, on the spot decide to give the information over or was there an interagency processor formal decision-making process in advance with the meeting. >> as you know, the president, it's appropriate for him to share whatever information he thanks is necessary to advance the security of the american people. that's what he did. asked your question on had the information been shared previously, i'm not sure. >> when did he make the decision to share the information. >> he made it in the context of the conversation which was wholly appropriate. i'd like to recap one thing for the president was meeting with the foreign minister about the terrorist threat. he had also raise difficult issues, what we expected in terms of different behavior from russia in key areas like ukraine and syria. then he was emphasizing that we have common interests and we have to work together. we have an area of cooperation with transnational terrorist organizations, isis in particular, an organization that had very taken down a russian airliner and murdered over 200 people in october 2015. this was the context of the conversation in which it was wholly appropriate to share what the threat was as a basis for common access and
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coordination and cooperation. >> so it was during the context of the conversation and in the moment. >> i want to follow up about the western wall being part of israel. >> that sounds like a policy and that's the president's intention. i did answer the question in terms of what is his intention is. it's to visit these religious sites to highlight the need for unity among three of the world's great religion. unity in confronting a great threat to all civilization and unity in embracing an agenda of tolerance. >> did the president reveal a city. did he reveal the city that gave away information that undermines an ally.
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>> all of you are very familiar with the threat from isis. all of you are familiar with the territory it controls. if you were to say from where do you think of threat might come from territory that isis controls, you would probably be able to name a few cities. it was nothing that you would not know from open source reporting in terms of a source of concern. it had all to do with operations that are already ongoing, have been made public for months. >> back to my question, was this information shared with the russians also the same content that was shared with our allies, and specific to the threat with which the president said was in relation to airlines, is it an eminent threat?
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was there a justification for in that moment needing to share with the russian. >> i don't want to get into specifics of what exact information was shared with which exact allies but information on this topic of the threat to aviation was shared with multiple allies. as you know there are policies being put in place to protect against that and you and many others have reported widely on it. >> in terms of the specifics, i can't, i have no basis for comparison on what was shared with what country but i will tell you it was our impression of all of us in the media that what was shared was wholly appropriate given the purpose of that conversation and the purpose of what the president was trying to achieve through the meeting. >> when you came out after the story broke, you said the president did not disclose any sources or methods, he did not reveal anything about military operations. why were you denying things that were not even reported. the report said the president revealed classified information that have been shared by one of our allies in
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the middle east. the question is simply a yes or no question. did the president share classified information with the russians in that meeting. >> as i mentioned, we don't say what's classified, what's not classified. what i will tell you is what the president shared was wholly appropriate. the story combined what was leaked with other information and insinuated about sources and methods. i wanted to make clear to everyone that the president, in no way, compromised any sources or methods in the course of this conversation. >> you say national security has been put at risk by the leak. do you have any idea how this got out and what steps are you taking by virtue of discovering this as you did to try to limit the potential for any more leaks of national security. >> i think national security is put at risk by leaks and
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leaks like this. there are a number of incidents where this has occurred, and it's important to investigate make sure we have trusted organizations across the government that allows for the free sharing of information and collaboration. in terms of national security, what is critical is that you can assemble the experts you need. you want a bigger group for any of these problems because you need their exper expertise. you need the tools they bring to bear from different agencies and departments. we need to have a very high degree of confidence in all of our organizations so we can do what we need to do for the president which is give him our best advice and give him options to deal with these problems. >> clearly you can't have that confidence by virtue of what happened yesterday. do you have an idea of how this got out, and how can you tighten up the ship to ensure
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that the stuff doesn't get out. >> i think it's incumbent of all of us to bring in the people with the right authority and mandate to look at how this leak occurred and how other breaches may occurred. >> thank you. >> general mcmaster, is there now and active investigation into how the information was leaked and can you tell us who is running the investigation and i would also like to ask, given that president trump is going to meet face-to-face with dozens of foreign leaders, is there a sensitivity to his discretion in terms of what information should be declassified. how is he being advised ahead of the foreign meeting. >> there are no sensitivities in terms of me or anyone who has been with the president. he shares information in a way that is wholly appropriate. i should make the statement here that the president wasn't even aware of where the information came from.
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he wasn't briefed on the source or method of the information. i'm sorry this has to be the last question because we do have the president of turkey coming momentarily. thank you very much. [inaudible conversations] >> if you missed any of that briefing you can see it again on our website type hr mcmaster in the search box. in a few moments we expect remarks from president trump and the turkish president. we showed you the his arrival at the white house just a few moments ago. the to our meeting and discussing u.s. turkey relations and shortly they will read statements to the media. we will have live coverage just after 1:00 p.m. here