Tuesday, August 8, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He promoted a Fox News story sourced by leakers of classified military intelligence.

The astonishing leakiness of Trump's administration is more than a personal embarrassment for him. Because leaks about Michael Flynn's undisclosed ties to Russian agents helped precipitate the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate the Trump-Russia collaboration, it's also an existential threat to his presidency. As a result, Trump's efforts to rein in leaks have escalated dramatically. The Justice Department, after being tweet-shamed, announced a campaign last week to unmask and prosecute leakers

By law, however, most leaks are not criminal matters. A government employee can be fired for disclosing information without authorization, but generally speaking only the leaking of classified information is a crime. As Trump himself tweeted last Saturday about the prosecution of leakers, "For National Security, the tougher the better!" In fact, Trump was thinking about the national security implications of leaks as far back as February, when he asked, "Will these leaks be happening as I deal on N.Korea etc?" 

Today, Trump retweeted a Fox News story that cited material gathered by US intelligence agencies about North Korean missile tests, attributed to "U.S. officials with knowledge of the latest intelligence in the region." UN Ambassador and Trump appointee Nikki Haley confirmed that the leak was not authorized, and called it "a shame." Haley added that “it's incredibly dangerous when things get out into the press like that.”

So what?

  • Presidents who only care about a crime when it affects them personally don't care about that crime at all.
  • It's bad if a president publicly celebrates things his own hand-picked diplomatic staff is calling "a shame" and "incredibly dangerous."