Trump’s Mishandling Of Classified Intel Threatens National Security

Trump has been reckless with classified intelligence. Recent news of the extraction of a CIA spy in Russia highlights the consequences of his recklessness.
President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and Former Sergey Kislyak (AP)

President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and Former Sergey Kislyak (AP)

The Lede

The day was May 10, 2017. Less than 24 hours earlier, President Trump had fired then-FBI Director James Comey, who was overseeing the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference. In a brazen move, Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office (in the photo collage above).

President Trump told Lavrov and Kislyak that he fired “nutjob” Comey and the pressure of the Russia probe had been “taken off.” Trump then revealed classified Israeli intelligence about ISIS to the Russian officials. This exchange, among others, reportedly raised so many concerns about President Trump’s mishandling of classified information that it resulted in a key Russian spy for the CIA being extracted from Russia in 2017. CNN was first to report on this story on Monday:

The removal happened at a time of wide concern in the intelligence community about mishandling of intelligence by Trump and his administration. Those concerns were described to CNN by five sources who served in the Trump administration, intelligence agencies and Congress.

Those concerns continued to grow in the period after Trump’s Oval Office meeting with Kislyak and Lavrov. Weeks after the decision to extract the spy, in July 2017, Trump met privately with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Hamburg and took the unusual step of confiscating the interpreter’s notes. Afterward, intelligence officials again expressed concern that the President may have improperly discussed classified intelligence with Russia, according to an intelligence source with knowledge of the intelligence community’s response to the Trump-Putin meeting.

The New York Times expanded on this reporting by revealing just how close the CIA operative was to Russian President Vladimir Putin:

The Moscow informant was instrumental to the C.I.A.’s most explosive conclusion about Russia’s interference campaign: that President Vladimir V. Putin ordered and orchestrated it himself. As the American government’s best insight into the thinking of and orders from Mr. Putin, the source was also key to the C.I.A.’s assessment that he affirmatively favored Donald J. Trump’s election and personally ordered the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.

An asset of this value is cultivated over the course of decades. It’s unlikely we’ll glean that much insight into the Kremlin for quite some time. President Trump’s mishandling of classified intelligence directly damaged America’s intel-gathering operation, and materially damaged our insight into Russia’s activities.

The New York Times went on to cite Trump Administration sources who claimed Trump has not mishandled classified information, but objective reality says otherwise.

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The Context

The Oval Office meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak wasn’t the last breach of security on the part of the Trump administration. As recently as 11 days ago, President Trump tweeted out a classified image of an Iranian rocket site, which sparked backlash among intelligence experts.

President Trump has reportedly had his personal iPhone calls spied on by Russia and China. Also, a Chinese national named Yujing Zhang was arrested at Mar-a-Lago with several cell phones, a laptop, and a thumb drive that had “malicious malware” on it. Another Mar-a-Lago guest, Cindy Yang, was reportedly selling Chinese nationals access to President Trump at Mar-a-Lago.

In February of 2017, President Trump coordinated his response to a North Korean missile test in open view at an unsecured dinner table in Mar-a-Lago with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. This all occurred in clear view of resort guests, with staff using the flashlights on their phones to help illuminate the sensitive documents. Pictures of the episode popped up on Facebook. After the ordeal, then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer said those discussions occurred in a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility). This was clearly not the case:

And then there’s the unsecured email situation. According to House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), President Trump’s son-in-law and White House Adviser, Jared Kushner, has been relying on his private email account and the encrypted messaging app WhatsApp for government business.

Rep. Cummings wrote: “These communications raise questions about whether these officials complied with the Presidential Records Act…” Cummings is also requesting information from the White House about alleged private email use on the part of Ivanka Trump, former deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland, and former Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. The Washington Post previously reported Ivanka Trump sent hundreds of emails on her private account in 2017.

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The Analysis

All of this, is of course, dangerous and incredibly hypocritical. Donald Trump, the candidate who waged his presidential campaign against Hillary Clinton’s use of private email has run an administration full of individuals that have done exactly that. Trump lambasted Clinton for putting classified information at risk, even though there were never any breaches of her server.

As for President Trump, he has put classified information at risk on several occasions and impulsively revealed classified intelligence. If Republican voters’ opposed Hillary Clinton, in part, because of her potentially putting classified information at risk, wouldn’t they be up in arms at the fact President Trump is blatantly doing so?

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Rundown // China / Donald Trump / Intelligence Community / National Security / Russia / Russian Interference