Monday, May 15, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He refused to deny that he had accidentally leaked extremely sensitive intelligence during his meeting with the Russian ambassador and foreign minister.

The Washington Post is reporting today that Trump disclosed--presumably accidentally--highly classified details of an allied nation's intelligence reports on Islamic State terrorist threats during his meeting with the Russian envoys last week. The Russian entourage included aides to Amb. Kislyak and Foreign Minister Lavrov, along with Russian--but not American--press. In the aftermath of the disclosure, the Post reports, American intelligence officials struggled to contain the damage done. 

Government agencies, once again caught off guard by a Trump bombshell, largely refused comment. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster issued a carefully worded statement, saying that "at no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed and the President did not disclose any military operations that weren't already publicly known." However, this is denying something that the Post story doesn't claim Trump did. Rather, it says that Trump provided so many specific details about the nature of the information learned--including, critically, the location where the intelligence was gathered--that Russia would likely be able to identify the sources and methods.

This would be one instance in which Trump's usual assertion that the rules don't apply to the president may actually be true. Presidents can unilaterally declassify almost anything, so Trump probably didn't technically break any laws with his "off-script" remarks. But because the information was supplied by a foreign ally--meaning that Trump's disclosure will compromise that ally's intelligence-gathering operations--there will likely be repercussions on the international stage. 

What's so bad about this?

  • A president who can't or won't keep from blurting out classified information in the presence of adversarial foreign leaders is not fit for the job.
  • If the United States cannot be trusted with its allies' secrets, American national security will be compromised.
  • Trump is the person who, quoting James Comey, tweeted this: