Who Is Matthew Pottinger? Audio of White House Official Debunks Trump's "Phony" Attack on The New York Times

Matthew Pottinger has been identified as the senior White House official quoted in a report from The New York Times about President Donald Trump’s proposed—and then canceled— meeting with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un. Trump previously accused the newspaper of making up the quote and using "phony sources." 

The newspaper's story, published Friday, was about a deep rift within the White House regarding the president’s canceled summit on June 12, during which he was going to meet with the North Korean leader. In a series of tweets, Trump attempted to discredit the newspaper and said no such source or internal friction existed. 

Trump wrote: “The Failing @nytimes quotes 'a senior White House official,' who doesn’t exist, as saying 'even if the meeting were reinstated, holding it on June 12 would be impossible, given the lack of time and the amount of planning needed.' WRONG AGAIN! Use real people, not phony sources.”

He followed that up with another repudiation of the newspaper's reporting. 

Reporters from various news outlets quickly pushed back against Trump's claims, saying they too heard the official make the remark. Several hours later, a video and audio recording taken last Thursday of Pottinger giving reporters the quote in a background press briefing started circulating widely on Twitter, after it was first shared by journalist Yashar Ali.

In the clip, White House deputy press secretary Raj Singh introduces Pottinger to reporters in the White House press briefing room.

"This briefing’s gonna be on background, off camera, not for broadcast," Singh tells the pool of reporters. "Pottinger here can be referred to as a senior White House official. He is deputy assistant to the president for Asia.”

Pottinger then makes the remark that was quoted in The New York Times. 

Pottinger is a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal, where he covered China. He left the news industry and joined the U.S. Marines in 2005, according to a biography in the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2017, the 43-year-old former intelligence officer was picked by the Trump administration to oversee Asian affairs in the U.S. National Security Council

In a 2006 interview with ABC News, Pottinger spoke about leaving behind journalism in favor of military work.

"I would come home, and you didn't feel coming home to the United States from abroad that we were a country at war," Pottinger said of his decision to enlist. "I was surprised by that … and that disturbed me. It gave me a sense that we were being a little bit too complacent." 

Pottinger, who won several reporting awards for his coverage of Asia, went on to become a decorated military official. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, he received “a Bronze Star Medal, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Combat Action Ribbon and the 2009 Lieutenant Colonel Michael Kuszewski award for Marine Corps Intelligence Officer of the Year.”

Trump’s Saturday tweet storm isn’t the first time his administration has pushed back on a quote reportedly given by Pottinger. In February, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders slammed a news story in which Pottinger said a strike on North Korea would be a “smart political move.”

“Never happened. Pottinger is a Marine who served in two wars and doesn’t take military action lightly,” she tweeted. “Can’t believe @WSJ reporter didn’t reach out for a comment before repeating such a reckless accusation.”

GettyImages-903906908 US President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting on prison reform in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, January 11, 2018. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images