President Donald Trump can’t stop sticking his head in the noose. The last 10 days in Washington have been a singularity of Trump’s reckless, dangerous, lead-paint-and-cheap-vodka brain-damage style of governance. As he flailed from crisis to crisis, nothing said “You’ll be tired of all the winning” like a series of self-inflicted wounds to his political, legal, and presidential fate.
The firing of FBI Director James Comey was just the start of this latest chapter in the White House drama. Trump’s dissipated preppy consigliere Stephen Bannon, Wisconsin Cheese Board Deputy Director Reince Priebus, and Shifty Spice were all cut out of the loop. This isn’t a White House turning the corner or getting its bearings in Washington—it’s a White House engaged in daily Downfall cosplay.
Their myriad stories, revisionist history, weapons-grade stupid talking points, midnight shrub-based press avails, and rolling Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ corn-pone “Aw-y’all-he’s-muh-second-cousin” claims to have talked to countless FBI agents in defense of President Indefensible didn’t signal determination—it signaled that the iceberg has holed the Trumptanic and the crew is running for the lifeboats.
Entertaining yet insane interviews with Lester Holt and others told us that Trump is ignoring reason, logic, politics, and most importantly, his legal team. His unveiled threats to Comey about secret White House tapes were a self-inflicted can of political whup-ass. Trump had long ago declared a pointless, doomed war with the intelligence community. Short of a land war in Asia, it’s the jewel in his crown of stupid. Our outward-facing intelligence agencies like the CIA already view Trump as a dangerous, compromised child. By firing Comey, Trump has crossed another red line. The FBI rank and file took it as an insult and an affront to their integrity and their reputations.
As if we hadn’t had enough lunacy in the last 10 days, Trump looked at America and said, “Hey… hold my beer. Watch this.” In his very cozy Oval Office meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Both men are so steeped in Russian intelligence circles they might as well have “spy” tattooed on their foreheads. As one of the smartest political observers I know said, “It’s ONLY MONDAY.”
No matter what Trump’s army of online clickservative fluffers says, this leak of product from a sensitive intelligence source wasn’t a plan. It wasn’t Trump being a genius negotiator. It wasn’t a considered policy decision. It wasn’t some 89-dimensional string-theory international-diplomacy chess game. It was a 70-year-old man with apparent mental infirmities bleating out something he thought was a cool-kid secret.
Is the president the ultimate declassification authority in the government? Yes. Was it legal? Almost certainly. Was it smart? Was it politic? Was it disciplined? According to The Washington Post, the information comes from a sensitive source run by a nation who apparently had no idea President Verbal Dysentery would blow up the intelligence flow from one of the few overseas partners with an inside line into the operations and behavior of the Islamic State terror group. This is a man who has no ability to process consequences. He has no ability to imagine outcomes other than those that stroke his gigantic, needy ego. If he weren’t president, he’d never be allowed within a thousand miles of a security clearance.
Presidents dealing with intelligence matters of international consequence need to have a level of mental and personal discipline when it comes to classified material. These are not notable qualities in Donald Trump, and the fire-drill going on Monday night in the intelligence community and in diplomatic circles to repair the damage Trump did in his shoot-from-the-lip bragging belies their denials. The damage to intelligence relationships at the agency level, to means of technical collection, and to sources and methods on the ground that can come from not being mindful is potentially profound.
The respected and smart H.R. McMaster was dispatched to do a terse, carefully parsed denial on the story at around 7 p.m., with the usual White House dodging of any wrongdoing. McMaster may be one of the better choices in this administration, but he’s standing on the political quicksand that Trump has created. Given that the left hand in this White House rarely knows what the right is doing, it’s an open question how long this set of facts will remain operative. McMaster isn’t the kind of powerhouse in the national-security apparatus who got where he is by suffering fools, gladly or not.
The Democrats will get over their skis on this story and call for impeachment. Republicans will mumble into their beers that they wish Trump would show more discipline. The Trump White House will go into the monkey cage with a front-end loader to scrape up new distractions for tomorrow’s news cycle.
If Trump had leaked this classified nugget to an ally, that would be one thing. But of course he leaked it to the Russians. As our allies in NATO and around the world feel the long Western alliance being strained to breaking by a man who puts Putin first, time and time again. Coming in the heat of multiple investigations into Trump’s Russia ties, it was tone deaf, politically inept, and cruising for legal trouble like sailors on shore leave, Trump keeps demonstrating he’s not even close to being suited to doing the job for which he was elected, and he’s throwing bloody, red-meat chum into the media sharks’ feeding frenzy.
Those of us who warned you of the danger of Trump won’t say we’re happy to see the damage he’s doing to our global standing, our national security, our justice system, and our national morale. We’ll just say we told you so.