Monday, May 15, 2017

NEWS FLASH: Trump betrays state secrets

[With minor additions to the Monday 8:34pm post.]

The Washington Post (boy, have they been busy breaking news) reported late Monday afternoon that "current and former US officials" had said that, during his Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and Ambassador Kislyev last Tuesday, President Trump revealed some highly classified information that could jeopardize a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.

What I understand is that this is information provided to us by a partner source, and that its being leaked by us puts those sources in jeopardy as well as potentially drying up that source of intelligence for us in the future.   The report, written by the Post's Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe, states that the intelligence-sharing arrangement with the source was "considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government."

As another put it, Trump "revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.  As another put it, if you or I had done this, we would be in jail.   But the president is authorized to declassify anything at any time, and he can do it just by talking about it to someone without security clearance.    So what he has done is not illegal for him.

That's hardly the point, however.   Even if not a criminal offense for the president, it's got to be something that would be considered in impeachment proceedings.   I do not think it's likely that Trump even realized what he was doing.   I think he is just so clueless he didn't realize the implications of what he was saying.   And that's equally dangerous.   According to reports, he was boasting to the Russians about "what great intelligence" he gets, and then mentioned this as an example.

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster was in the room and has said that the Post story is false "as reported."  He gave a carefully worded statement, saying that no "intelligence sources or methodswere discussed.   But "sources and methods" were not what was claimed in the Post story, as several reporters have noted.  That still leaves room for classified and sensitive information to have been lea ked to Russians who know how to make use of it -- as well as reinforcing their awareness that Trump is someone they can manipulate, often referred to as "a useful idiot."

I might also point out that McMaster is still an active duty general (which required a waiver for him to serve in what is usually a civilian role as NSA), so Trump is his commander-in-chief and can order what he is to say. They're trying to put a good face on this for public consumption, but it's not working.

But the White House is obviously concerned,   The president's assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism called the CIA and the NSA to notify them;  and that portion of the internal memos was striken from the record.'

But who will strike it from the minds of the Russian team, which included the two officials mentioned above, plus two aides and a photographer?  Photographs were promptly shown on Russian state propaganda television, which is the only reason we know about the meeting, since US media was barred from it.

Here's my take on this:   This is going cause a lot of damage -- first, to the US in our counterterrorism partner relationships.   Not just the partner who supplied us with this particular information -- but all of our intelligence partners, all over the world, who provide vital intelligence for us, will be wary of sharing sensitive material to the US after this, as long as Trump is president.  He is a loose cannon who might betray allies without even meaning too -- or perhaps even that too.

It should, it must, wake up the Republicans in Congress who have been overlooking how dangerous this clueless, childish president can be.     He needs more adult supervision than he's getting.   And House Republicans need to begin collecting such data to prepare for impeachment proceedings.


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