In a fit of braggadocio

Eliot Cohen spells out the harms that will ensue from Trump’s treasonous blurting of secret information.

The repeated spectacular breaks into the American security system by the Russians, among others, coupled with the ubiquity of personal information in the smartphone age, has caused some Americans to assume that secrets do not exist. They most certainly do. If someone finds out how you have gathered information, that artfully planted bug may go dead. Or a human agent may go dead. In the normal course of events, Donald Trump would never have been given a high-level security clearance because of his psychological profile and personal record, including his susceptibility to blackmail.

That’s a chilling sentence. The truth of it is self-evident, but seeing it put into words is still sobering. It’s the same point as the one Evan Osnos made about people who have anything to do with firing the nukes:

Bruce Blair, a research scholar at the Program on Science and Global Security, at Princeton, told me that if Trump were an officer in the Air Force, with any connection to nuclear weapons, he would need to pass the Personnel Reliability Program, which includes thirty-seven questions about financial history, emotional volatility, and physical health. (Question No. 28: Do you often lose your temper?) “There’s no doubt in my mind that Trump would never pass muster,” Blair, who was a ballistic-missile launch-control officer in the Army, told me. “Any of us that had our hands anywhere near nuclear weapons had to pass the system. If you were having any arguments, or were in financial trouble, that was a problem. For all we know, Trump is on the brink of that, but the President is exempt from everything.”

None of this makes any sense. Everybody else in the system is subject to rules and filtering – but there’s just this one Special Person who is exempt from everything. This is no longer tenable. I’m not sure it ever was, but it sure as hell isn’t now.

Back to Eliot Cohen:

To a remarkable degree, the United States relies on liaison relationships with other powers with whom it shares information. If Trump has indeed compromised a source of information, it is not merely a betrayal of an ally’s trust: It is an act that will jeopardize a whole range of relationships. After all, the Director of Central Intelligence cannot very well say, “Don’t worry, we won’t share that with the president.” So now everybody—even our closest allies like the United Kingdom—would be well-advised to be careful with what they share with us.

So he’s put us all at greatly increased risk, either because the Russians are blackmailing him or because he’s too stupid and lazy to read his briefings and remember what they say.

If any foreign government harbored lingering illusions about the administration’s ability to protect any information, including sensitive but non-intelligence matters like future foreign-policy initiatives or military deployments, they no longer do. They will be even more apprehensive about sharing sensitive information of any kind because…

He gave it to the Russians. In the Oval Office. In a fit of braggadocio.

Russia is antagonistic to the United States, although Trump has repeatedly indicated his desire to be chummy with the Russians—after all, as he notoriously said during the presidential campaign, we are both killers, and so on the same moral plane. He apparently divulged the information to show off, which not only shows a lack of self-discipline: It shows, yet again, how easy this man is to play, particularly by veteran manipulators like his two experienced, talented, and thuggish guests. The crisis is made worse by virtue of Trump having just fired the FBI director, apparently for having pushed that Russia investigation too far.

Quite apart from making himself and the country a laughingstock around the world, the president has now practically begged Vladimir Putin to toy with him, tantalize him, tease him, flatter him, manipulate him. He has shown the Russians (and others, who are watching just as closely) just how easy that is to do, and he has shown the rest of us that his vanity and impulsiveness have not been tempered by the highest responsibilities.

They’ve been augmented by the highest responsibilities. Now he gets to prance around the White House and eat extra ice cream in front of his guests. Now he gets to approve raids over dinner, discuss emergencies in the public restaurant at Mar a Lago, keep US reporters out of meetings with the Russians while letting the Russian ones in – and share highly classified information with those same Russians, officials of a hostile foreign rival.

He needs to go. Now.

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