In the context of national security and the fact that Candidate Trump called for the intelligence community to stop giving Candidate Hillary Clinton security briefings because she couldn’t be trusted with secret information, this most recent misstep by President Trump, disclosing extremely secret information to the Russians, is turning into a major firestorm in Washington.
How serious was the security breach?
Alan Dershowitz, Law Professor Emeritus, Harvard University told CNN, “This is the most serious charge ever made against a sitting president.”
For those of you who didn’t read my earlier story, the information disclosed by President Trump was not just Secret or even Top Secret, it was Codeword classified which is the highest classification.
Trump is more courteous to the Russians than the American people – the White House readout of the meeting in question didn’t mention the release of classified information or that Russian spymaster Ambassador Sergey Kislyak was in the meeting.
Trump has a history and pattern of desperately searching for a decent explanation for whatever he had felt like saying at the time.
This time it looks very much as if he was acting like a little boy showing off his secret knowledge and seeking approval of the Russians.
You only need to look back a few days to see how this works when it took three days and four different explanations to settle on the real reason he fired the head of the FBI. It certainly appears that when he says or does something outrageous he sends out beleaguered White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and other spokespersons to try out various explanations until he finds one he likes.
The Latest White House Explanation
This time there are various confusing and downright false statements about just what was disclosed, including House Speaker Paul Ryan who on the morning of the 16th said: “there is no way to know just what the president said.” That statement was factually untrue (also known as a lie to the average human being).
On the evening of the 15th H.R. McMaster, the current National Security Advisor (successor to fired Michael Flynn) said, “The story that came out tonight as reported is false.”
Technically a true statement because Trump didn’t name the source of the report, but false in its implication that people couldn’t figure out the source based on the information disclosed. Friends of McMaster bent over backward today to not call him a liar but did say he was placed in an extremely difficult position.
That may have been technically true, but Trump did disclose information which any decent reporter or intelligence agency could use to narrow down the specific source because President Trump did provide enough details to make it relatively easy and terrorists would tend to kill every suspect without bothering for solid evidence.
Most of those who were in any terrorist meeting where the disclosed information was discussed will probably turn up dead or missing in a few days.
The McMaster explanation was completely undermined this morning (May 16) when President Trump tweeted that he was justified and had every legal right to share codeword-classified secrets with the Russian Ambassador and several other Russians.
Donald J. TrumpVerified account @realDonaldTrump:
“As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.”
Was it legal? Was it Right?
Those are actually two entirely different questions even though Trump and Republican supporters seem to miss the point.
It may be true that it is legal for The President (any President) to declassify information there are various protocols involved in doing that including asking permission of the country which provided the closely-held information.
But even if it was legal, that doesn’t mean it was right.
President Trump had absolutely no right to disclose this information which was provided by one of our allies in the fight against terrorism under the strict understanding that it never be shared with any other government. He also had no possible way of knowing whether the disclosure would tell other governments just who provided the information from the ground – risking the lives of sources.
If you were a source would you even consider providing sensitive information now with the knowledge that the U.S. President might tell it to your enemy?
Is Trump developing senility?
A number of the more outrageous commentators are asking that very question and it would be easy to dismiss them as crackpots if it weren’t that their description of President Trump wasn’t eerily close to the medical description of someone developing dementia.
(Reporter’s note: I’m not a doctor. I had one behavioral psychology course many decades ago which probably qualifies me to train dogs. I am certainly not, REPEAT NOT, saying the President is senile or even developing senility. He may merely be extremely careless with names and facts, but considering that he could start World War III, does it matter whether he is developing senility or is just extremely careless and self-serving?)
This is the Mayo Clinic description of the signs showing the onset of senility:
“irritability, personality changes, restlessness, lack of restraint memory loss, mental decline, confusion in the evening hours, paranoia, disorientation, inability to speak or understand, making things up.”
Does that sound like anyone we all see on Twitter and TV?
This is the chilling statement made to PBS by Trump’s controversial doctor, Harold Bornstein, M..D. who described his patient then Candidate Trump as “healthier than all 43 [previous] American presidents.”
The same doctor made these statements in late December 2016, “It never occurred to me that he was the oldest president, not for a second. Ronald Reagan had pre-senile dementia. I mean, seriously, did they share that one with you, or did Nancy just cover it up?”
“If something happens to him [President Trump], then it happens to him,” Bornstein said. “It’s like all the rest of us, no? That’s why we have a vice president and a speaker of the House and a whole line of people. They can just keep dying.”
Mentioning a former president with dementia in the same context as discussing his medical report on Trump? That certainly sounds like someone building up a defense for not disclosing some serious medical conditions – saying, in essence, it doesn’t matter because there are others ready to take over.
Trump’s childishness and extreme forgetfulness could be seen as signs of early onset Alzheimer’s.
He is petulant and keeps calling people he knows well by the wrong name (he has repeatedly called Paul Ryan “Ron.”)
In a speech to SnapOn employees, President Trump recently said, “My thanks go to Speaker Ryan, who’s represented this city for nearly two decades in Congress, and do you know where he is?” Trump asked. “He’s with NATO. So he has a good excuse. So I said, ‘Ron, make sure these countries start paying their bills a little bit more, you know, they’re way, way behind, Ron.'”
In the context, it was clear he had confused House Speaker Paul Ryan with Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson.
President Trump had been working closely with Speaker Ryan on the first health care bill and had flown to the event with Ron Johnson.
He also fails to recognize people (he recently failed to recognize Rudy Giuliani in a meeting when Giuliani was sitting opposite him. He also thought that Kim Jong-un took over the government of North Korea as a child.
The latter came out when he made it clear in a Fox News interview that he thought Kim Jung-un was the head of North Korea in the 1990’s when he would have been between 8 and 12 years old. It was clear that Trump thought Kim Jong-un was the same man who reached agreements with Bill Clinton when he was in office.
WebMD says of dementia signs, “trouble recalling recent events or recognizing people and places,” and “trouble finding the right words.”
And who could forget his infamous and oft-repeated claim that he saw videos of Muslim American crowds cheering the events of 9/11?