General McMaster emerged from the White House last night to read a statement denying the gist of the eye-opening Washington Post story by Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe posted earlier yesterday evening. The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have reported companion versions of the story.
Although General McMaster serves as President Trump’s national security adviser at the pleasure of the president, he is a man of unblemished reputation and unusual credibility. His words deserve our attention. This is McMaster’s statement in its entirety:
A brief statement for the record. There is nothing that the president takes more seriously than the security of the American people. The story that came out tonight as reported is false. The president and the [Russian] foreign minister [Sergey Lavrov] reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation. At no time — at no time — were intelligence sources or methods discussed 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 the state, remember the meeting the same way and have said so. Their on the record accounts should outweigh those of anonymous sources. And I was in the room. It didn’t happen. Thanks, everybody.
As I say, McMaster’s statement appears in the form of a denial. However, close readers such as Josh Marshall and Stephen Green variously explicate the text. The Wall Street Journal reports that President Trump is tweeting his own comments on the story this morning.
It was reasonable to hope that McMaster’s statement was accurate in its general sense and not only by closely parsing his words or taking advantage of their ambiguity, but it appears that a close reading is in fact warranted if not necessary.