It’s too far a reach to believe President Donald Trump was trying to provide his Russian guests with valuable intelligence last week. Not when there’s a more plausible explanation for why he would divulge highly classified information to one of our most implacable international adversaries. He was bragging.
It’s that simple. You can read it between the lines, published by The Washington Post, when he blurts out: “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day.”
Trump is a braggart, pure and simple. He brags (and exaggerates) about his electoral victory. He brags (and exaggerates) about his popularity. He brags (and exaggerates) about his business acumen, the elegance of his properties and his sexual conquests. Of course he was bragging to two top Russian officials last week. It’s what he does.
Spies and moles hide their nefarious deeds; braggarts broadcast their prowess to the world. Trump’s skills are those of a front man; a salesman trying to instill confidence in a client. But Russia is not a client or a partner.
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By bragging in a setting from which American media was barred but Russian media was welcomed, Trump proved himself incredibly reckless and entirely unreliable. In this case, he was a detriment to the conduct of our nation’s foreign policy and the world’s security.
And Tuesday afternoon’s disclosure that Trump tried to get now-fired FBI director James Comey to drop the investigation into National Security Adviser Mike Flynn’s connections to Russia is just additional confirmation that Trump is neither subtle nor particularly interested in the consequences of his words – another detriment to our nation.
Detriment or not, Trump won the Electoral College vote and he is president. We get it. But now people across the political spectrum and throughout our national security apparatus recognize that he cannot keep his mouth shut; that he is a security liability.
Born either from inexperience or incompetence, President Trump is not up to the task of being president. And unless he allows his hand to be held during important meetings with foreign dignitaries – and learns to hold his own tongue – he will not succeed in his most crucial roles, building and protecting America.
When Trump told the Russians that a plot involving commercial air travel exists, he wasn’t simply doing Vladimir Putin’s emissaries a solid. He was quite possibly alerting, even inadvertently, a dangerous terrorist group that they might have a spy in their midst. Worse, he signaled an ally – most likely Israel, according to The New York Times – that information they share with America will not be safeguarded, at least not if it gets into the President’s daily security briefing.
H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, defended his boss Tuesday, repeatedly claiming what the president did was “wholly appropriate.” But if Trump’s disclosure was so benign, why did White House officials alert the CIA and National Security Agency and then delete some of Trump’s words from the transcripts of the meeting?
And it was Trump who later undercut McMaster’s explanation with, you guessed it, a tweet.
It’s almost as if Trump didn’t realize who was in the room. He was meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, whose contact with Flynn led to Flynn’s resignation. And this was the day after Trump fired Comey, who was leading the FBI leading an investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
Trump declared he has the “absolute right” to share facts and wanted to do so for “humanitarian reasons.” “Plus,” he tweeted, “I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.”
If that’s so, his bragging just made that fight harder – for the Russians, for the United States and for the rest of the world. Trump might never learn any kind of practical lesson from his harmful bragging. But the rest of us should.