It wasn’t illegal. It wasn’t treason. It was incompetence.
Last week, in a White House meeting, the president of the United States gave away highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador. In what appeared to be a moment of braggadocio, Donald Trump blurted out intelligence so sensitive that it had been withheld from allies and much of the U.S. government.
It didn’t, in all likelihood, have anything to do with the president’s possible ties to Russia. It probably wasn’t about Trump colluding with a hostile foreign government. It was about a president who is dangerously insecure, intellectually ill-equipped to do his job and, because of that combination, a hazard to the country he leads.
How much more of this is OK, Republicans in Washington?
According to the Washington Post and other outlets, the intelligence Trump revealed was so precise that it could allow Russia to identify the sources and techniques our agencies use. It will chill relationships with other intelligence communities, and it endangers our own agents and allies, who put their lives on the line every day to obtain this information.
How much danger are Republicans willing to accept?
This is beyond coddling a president who will sign off on the GOP agenda in Congress. It’s beyond having someone simpleminded enough to manipulate in the White House.
This is about a president who understands little about the basic things a president should know – policy and diplomacy. Worse, he cares little about the consequences of his words and, in this case, didn’t grasp what those consequences are.
Think about it – the president of the United States gave secrets to the Russian government because he didn’t know better.
The White House has tepidly tried to refute that, shoving National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster in front of reporters Monday night to offer a carefully worded denial of the damaging news story. McMaster, who attended Trump’s meeting with the Russians, said the president didn’t talk about intelligence “sources and methods.”
The Post, however, never reported that Trump discussed sources and methods, and McMaster didn’t deny that Trump revealed classified information. Trump himself essentially admitted he did so in tweets Tuesday morning. It’s especially telling that the White House also hasn’t denied asking the Post not to publish the sensitive intel that Trump blurted out. The Post, unlike the president, respected that sensitivity.
Now, Republicans in Washington – including North Carolina’s representatives and senators – must decide if they will place political considerations over the good of their country. This is not a new calculation. From his comical lies about inauguration crowd size to his troubling lies about a former president wiretapping him, Trump has embarrassed himself and demeaned his office from Day 1.
But in the past week alone, the president fired an FBI director who was leading an investigation into Trump’s campaign ties with Russia. He let his staff mislead Americans about that firing. He threatened that now-former FBI director with a tweet that suggested he’s taping White House conversations – a threat that has seemingly backfired, given new reports that a James Comey memo details how Trump asked for the FBI to drop its investigation into former national security advisor Michael Flynn.
And now, the president also has given away secrets.
There’s a thread to all this. It’s that Donald Trump is so obsessed with Donald Trump – what people think about him and how people may have wronged him – that he can’t control what he says and does. It’s who he is and always has been.
Except now, it’s threatening national security.
It’s getting more dangerous every week.
When will it be dangerous enough?