The Best Trump Defense
Terry H. Schwadron
It’s the best defense ever!
After a day of people setting their hair afire over the issue, the White House finally settled on a story to explain disclosures by the President of information from Israeli operatives that could let the Russians and their allies like Iran find out the source.
Here it is: The President didn’t prepare for the meeting, so he couldn’t have known anything about the issues and logically could not betray the classified nature of the material. Didn’t know, couldn’t be an intentional misstep, though it would be perfectly OK if he had.
So, the President sent out all the President’s men to say that the President is routinely so poorly prepared that he couldn’t have intentionally slipped a secret to the visiting Russian foreign minister. Still, in his remarks, H.R. McMaster, the president’s top security adviser, never addressed the central thesis of the Post coverage, that President had shared deeply sensitive information with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during an Oval Office meeting last week.
Even more, the White House said, the story once again should be how The Washington Post could have learned about the contents of that closed meeting.
If you listen to the White House:
- The President can say anything he wants to anyone he wants in pursuit of his own personal view of American interests, not just because it is legal, but because his judgment is so good.
- People who criticize him or the results of his actions may be acting in a treasonous manner.
- It’s a good idea to share more secret stuff with Russia, key players in the plot to influence the U.S. elections.
- And, oh by the way, this is totally different from Hillary, who hypocritically should have been locked up for leaking classified information to her staff.
Even as folks were absorbing all of this, even as they were heading for their partisan corners, yet another wave of news broke: The New York Times quoted friends of James B. Comey Jr., dismissed as FBI director, as having written notes of a Feb. 14 meeting with the President, one on one, in which Mr. Trump asked Comey to drop any investigation against Michael T. Flynn, former national security adviser. In other words, interfering in an active investigation, which is at least inappropriate if not obstruction of justice. The letter was part of a paper trail Comey created, said the story. Predictably, the White House said it didn’t happen. Who knows, the President may yet tweet that it did happen, but that it had been perfectly reasonable to ask Comey to drop any investigation.
The President is losing important support among Senate Republicans, he is openly being discussed as an impeachment target, he is being ridiculed by late-night comics. He is at risk of losing cooperation from Israeli intelligence for the sharing of information. So much for making the country safer, running a tight ship or Making America Grate.
Defending himself through tweets, he acknowledged the central truth of the newspaper coverage and knee-capped his own spokespeople who had been trying to put the best face on the growing cancer in the White House.
The best and worst of it all is that this crisis, as with the continuing Comey dismissal problem, is a sole reflection of the actions of Donald Trump. These are, in punditry terms, “self-inflicted injuries.” It is the President’s own mouth, his tweets and words, that have resulted in serial political upsets and a White House in disarray.
It now will be up to other countries to decide whether to withhold information with U.S.
Apparently all this intelligence concerned what is now known about commercial airplanes and the latest terrorist tactics to attack aircraft.
There are briefing books prepared for the President before such meetings, but we all know that Donald Trump doesn’t like to read. What we do know from the President himself is that he finds intelligence briefings repetitive and boring. Questions at the daily Press Secretary briefing yesterday openly questioned whether President Trump does his homework.
Now the president who fired the FBI director over interference is picking a new FBI director who will be loyal to the President, yet independent. We will work with the Israelis who now magically will trust the U.S. President not to expose their operatives. Somehow, we will win cooperation from the Russians who oppose almost everything the U.S. wants.
It is all magical thinking.
There is little here in which to take glee. This is horrible stuff, made worse by the President’s boastful, petulant, undisciplined ego.
Once again, I wonder: Can’t we do better?