Donald Trump on Monday denied an allegation that major media organizations never reported: that he had identified Israel as the source of U.S. intelligence he shared this month with top Russian officials.
“Just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or name Israel,” the president said as he stood next to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before a meeting in Jerusalem.
Gesturing toward reporters gathered in the room, Trump complained that “they’re all saying I did” mention Israel. The reporters got “another story wrong,” he said.
In making the comments, which he seemed to tack on at the end of planned statements to the press, Trump shifted attention back to U.S. troubles that he and his team were hoping would fade as they travel around the Middle East and Europe this week.
The Washington Post first reported May 15 that Trump had revealed intelligence at the closed-door meeting earlier this month with Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S. The newspaper never said that he mentioned Israel as the source of that intelligence.
Several news outlets— citing unnamed U.S. officials — subsequently reported that Israel was the source of the intelligence.
CNBC could identify no major news media accounts that said Trump himself had identified Israel as the source.
Trump has admitted to sharing intelligence with the Russian diplomats related to terrorism threats. However, he has never commented on whether the information was classified.
Last week, The New York Times reported that at the same meeting, Trump also called ousted FBI Director James Comey a “nut job” and told the Russians that firing him relieved “great pressure.” The White House did not deny the Times report.
Trump had fired Comey, whose agency was investigating the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia, the day before his meeting with Moscow officials.
Correction: President Donald Trump was speaking before a meeting in Jerusalem. An earlier version misstated the location.
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