On May 10, in a meeting with two top Russian officials, Donald Trump reportedly revealed highly classified intelligence information about an ISIS terror plot — top secret intelligence that according to a report in The New York Times last week was passed on to the United States from sources in Israel, a country with whom the U.S. holds a prized and highly sensitive intelligence-sharing relationship.
But the White House, expectedly, has not confirmed the source of the information and in fact, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster characterized Trump’s conversation with the two Russians — Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak — including his disclosure of the top secret information as “wholly appropriate,” adding that Trump himself was not aware of the information’s source.
However, on Monday during Trump’s first official state visit to Israel, Trump made impromptu remarks during a photo opportunity with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that appeared to confirm that he did, in fact, pass classified intelligence to the Russians — and that the information came via Israel.
As photographers and reporters were being ushered out of a room where Trump and Netanyahu had just finished posing for photographs, Trump stopped them, and made a statement that clearly had not been part of any prepared script or agenda for the public portion of the meeting.
“Just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name ‘Israel,'” Trump told the press gathering in Jerusalem. “Never mentioned it during that conversation. They were all saying I did. So you had another story wrong. Never mentioned the word ‘Israel.'”
Watch video of the astonishing moment, and Trump’s off-the-cuff remarks, below.
Really confusing moment here where Trump stops the press from being ushered out of his photo spray with PM Netanyahu. Full video—> pic.twitter.com/A7UVcw3Zt2
— Tom Namako (@TomNamako) May 22, 2017
“Israel has refused to confirm or deny that Trump’s disclosure involved Israeli intelligence, as is standard practice; confirming it would just make it worse,” wrote Vox.com foreign policy expert Sarah Wildman, after the bizarre Trump pronouncement. “But now Trump has gone off script and seems to have done it for them.”
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Trump’s spontaneous statement that he “never mentioned the word or the name ‘Israel,'” is seen as a confirmation that Israel was indeed the source of the ISIS intelligence because no news report, including the original New York Times story identifying Israel as the source, stated that Trump himself had used the word “Israel” in his conversation with the Russians — and to deny that he had mentioned Israel without ever being accused of doing so indicates awareness of that Israel was, in fact, the source.
Greg Miller, one of the Washington Post reporters who broke the story about Trump’s classified revelation in his Russian meeting, noted in Monday that Trump’s latest statement was at least not a denial of his classified leak.
— Greg Miller (@gregpmiller) May 22, 2017
“Trump is the denying an allegation that, literally, no news organization made,” wrote CNN Editor-At-Large Chris Cilizza on Monday. “He’s also implicitly confirming that, yes, he did talk to the Russians about classified information.”
The intelligence information passed by Trump to the Russians, according to media reports, may have blown the cover of a deeply embedded Israeli spy inside the ISIS organization — one who is considered the “most valuable source of information on external plotting by Islamic State.”
[Featured Image by Amos Ben Gershom/Getty Images]