A non-denial denial
The White House has insisted that reports about Donald Trump's meeting with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador are false - but has not denied he leaked classified information, writes The Independent.
Which makes it a non-denial denial.
According to the Washington Post, Mr Trump revealed highly classified information about Isis to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during a White House meeting last week.
In a brief appearance outside the White House, HR McMaster, the President's national security advisor, said “the story that came out tonight, as reported, is false."
"At no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed," Mr McMaster said. "And the President did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known. Two other senior officials who were present, including the Secretary of State, remembered the meeting the same way and said so. The on-the-record accounts should outweigh those of anonymous sources."
He said he had been present at the meeting.
In an earlier statement provided by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that Mr Trump discussed a "broad range of subjects" with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador, "among which were common efforts and threats regarding counter-terrorism."
"During that exchange the nature of specific threats were discussed, but they did not discuss sources, methods or military operations," Mr Tillerson said.
Dina Powell, White House deputy national security adviser for strategy, who also attended the meeting, said: "This story is false. The President only discussed the common threats that both countries faced."
So who is telling the truth? The Press and senior Republicans don't seem to be buying it. According to The Guardian, Trump’s Oval Office boasting to the Russians, if confirmed, could wreak its deepest and most enduring damage on vital intelligence-sharing by US allies.
A similar erosion of trust in the president’s loyalties and competence appeared to have accelerated among Trump’s political allies in Washington. As the White House fought back hard against the Washington Post report, which was confirmed on Tuesday night by several other US news organisations, it was unclear how far his support from the Republican establishment – essential to his survival as president – had been weakened.
In the world of intelligence-sharing among nations, however, any semblance of doubt can be corrosive and irrevocable. Even before this latest indiscretion, there had been rumblings of concern from the CIA’s partner agencies abroad, uneasy about the Trump campaign’s seemingly cosy relation with Moscow, reports of possible collusion in the 2016 election campaign, and Trump’s own disdain for the US intelligence community. He frequently appeared to give more credence to conspiracy sites and the Kremlin than the intelligence briefings he received before taking office.
“During the transition, many allies voiced concern Trump team might share intel with Moscow. Today’s news will compound that concern,” Colin Kahl, a senior official in the Obama administration’s national security council (NSC), said in a tweet.
In March, the Financial Times wrote about a business deal between Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and a Russian billionaire which suggested Mr Manafort had been hired to “promote” Russian president Vladimir Putin’s interests.
He was hired by Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire industrial magnate and one of Russia’s richest men, to conduct activities that would “greatly benefit the Putin government”, the Associated Press reported citing leaked documents.
The report came two days after the recently dismissed James Comey, head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, confirmed that the agency was probing ties between Mr Trump’s campaign aides and Russian officials as part of an investigation into interference by Moscow in the US election, which included the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.
Trump has faced scrutiny over his relationship with Russia since he launched his presidential campaign in 2015. He has confounded Democrats and Republicans with his refusal to criticise Mr Putin, which has fuelled speculation about his motives.