The highly classified information President Trump revealed to Russian diplomats at an Oval Office meeting came from Israel, according to a report in The New York Times.
Citing one current and one former official familiar with U.S. intelligence gathering, the Times reported on Tuesday that the information Trump shared with the Russian ambassador and foreign minister about a terror plot involving the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) came from the Israelis.
Israeli officials declined to confirm whether they were the source of the intelligence Trump shared.
In a statement to the Times, Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer said Israel “has full confidence in our intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States and looks forward to deepening that relationship in the years ahead under President Trump.”
White House press secretary Sean Spicer also would not confirm or deny whether Israel was the source of the intelligence Trump revealed to Russian officials, pointing to Dermer’s statement.
“I’m not going to comment on that any further,” he said during an off-camera briefing at the White House. “We appreciate the strong relationship that we have with Israel when it comes to intelligence sharing.”
Still, the revelation could complicate U.S. relations with a top ally in the Middle East and a partner in fighting terrorism ahead of Trump’s first trip abroad as president, which kicks off Friday in Saudi Arabia.
U.S. intelligence officials in January reportedly warned their Israeli counterparts against sharing information with the Trump administration, saying it could be leaked to Russia and forwarded to Iran.
At a press briefing on Tuesday, national security adviser H.R. McMaster said Trump did not know where the intelligence came from when he shared it with the Russians.
“The president wasn’t even aware of where this information came from,” McMaster said. “He wasn’t briefed on the source.”
The administration has been in damage control since The Washington Post broke the story late Monday that Trump shared sensitive information with the Russians, sparking fears that the president had jeopardized intelligence assets abroad and revealed state secrets to hostile actors eager to undermine U.S. and Israeli interests.
The White House insists that Trump did not reveal U.S. “sources and methods.”
Trump early Tuesday argued that as commander in chief, he has the “absolute right” to share information with whomever he deems relevant.
But according to the Post’s reporting, the information Trump revealed came to U.S. officials under the condition that it would not be shared outside of government officials with the appropriate level of access.
In the immediate aftermath of Trump’s revelation, homeland security adviser Tom Bossert reportedly alerted the CIA and the National Security Agency about what had transpired. McMaster on Tuesday declined to confirm that detail, but said if it did occur, it was out of “an overabundance of caution.”
McMaster insisted that the revelations would not harm intelligence sharing agreements with U.S. allies, arguing that everything the president discussed was already available through “open-sourced reporting.”