President Donald Trump finds himself at the center of yet another fabricated scandal over his meeting, last week, with the Russian Foreign Minister and Russian Ambassador. It appears that the left-wing media is suggesting that the President of the United States of America – the nation’s chief executive and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces – is not actually authorized to share information with foreign officials.
The real story is obvious: This latest tantrum is designed to keep alive the fading myth of Trump’s collusion with the Russian government.
The Washington Post reported Monday that the president had “revealed highly classified information” during his meeting with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Staying true to what has now become standard practice for the media, the Post provides no factual evidence for its claim and, instead, cites anonymous sources – in this case, “current and former U.S. officials.”
The president has broad authority to reclassify intelligence. Put simply; it is not possible for a sitting president to be accused of mishandling classified information. More to the point, Mr. Trump did not divulge specific details of any military or intelligence operations. He did brief Kislyak and Lavrov on a threat related to the Islamic State (ISIS), without revealing the specifics of how, when and from whom the government obtained the information. That intelligence was related to the potential ISIS plot against commercial airlines that lead to the recent U.S. ban on flying with laptop computers.
On Monday, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster described the Washington Post report as “false.” According to McMaster, the president and the Russian foreign minister “reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation.” He added, “At no time, at no time, were intelligent sources or methods discussed and the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known.” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also concurred with McMaster’s account of the meeting.
Tuesday morning, the president himself posted a series of tweets, defending his decision to divulge the existence of certain threats. Pointing out that he has the “absolute right” to share “facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety.” His rationale for doing so, he pointed out, was his desire to see Russia “greatly step up their fight against ISIS and terrorism.”
It is worth noting that former President Barack Obama often exercised his authority over the sharing of classified intelligence without a word of concern from the media. In 2016, Obama announced a broad plan to revamp U.S.-Cuba relations. As part of that plan, The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) was directed to “support broader United States Government efforts to normalize relations with Cuba, with Intelligence Community elements working to find opportunities for engagement on areas of common interest through which we could exchange information on mutual threats with Cuban counterparts.”
In short, the then President authorized his senior intelligence official to share intelligence, where appropriate, with an adversarial nation run by a ruthless dictator. The Washington Post did not, apparently, see this as a problem.
The greater scandal here – and one that continues to plague the Trump administration – is the constant flow of leaks to the press. As the president so often does – and for good reason – he used this opportunity to turn this story back against the media. In a later tweet, he said: “I have been asking Director Comey & others, from the beginning of my administration, to find the LEAKERS in the intelligence community…..”
Never before – in living memory, at least – has a U.S. president been so minutely scrutinized in his every word and action. It is not just the media; certain members of Congress seem to have falsely assumed power over the executive that is beyond anything outlined in the Constitution. Representative Justin Amash (R-Mi.) tweeted Tuesday “The administration should promptly share with Congress, in a classified setting, the precise details of the president’s meeting.” Apparently, we now have a president who has no authority to speak or act, on any issue, without a congressional investigation, review, and approval.
Partisan politics aside, the level of stagnation within the federal government is becoming untenable. The media and political establishments – once again – have thrown a tantrum because the man in the White House refuses to do things their way. Washington is now even more broken than it has ever been. Trump is certainly not without blame and not without shortcomings of his own, but his presidency is smothered under a blanket of constant outrage and manufactured crises. In resisting the voices of opposition to Barack Obama’s presidency, the constant refrain was that, even if one does not agree with the president’s policies, he is the president and rooting for his failure is the same as wishing failure for the nation. If that is true, then we now have far too many people – both in government and the media – who are rooting for the failure of the United States.