In the anguished words of Michael Corelone in The Godfather, Part 3 -- "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!"
I didn't plan to write about this today. I had something all set. I don't intend to write about angst-ridden political disasters every day. This is actually not a political website. It's about a wide range of things -- movies and TV, sports, technology, humor, lots of Broadway, and certainly a healthy dose of politics mixed in with everything else, It's something we touch on here. But when an avalanche keeps pouring down on you, you have to get your shovel out.
Good heavens, man. Consider. This is a sociopathic, unequipped, egomaniacal, racist in the White House who is somehow able to grab Senate hearings about the National Security Advisor having Russian ties and push that off the front pages by doing something even worse, firing the FBI director investigating his administration. And then push firing an FBI director off the front pages by doing something beyond even that, bragging about secretly recording him. And who is remarkably, stunningly able to actually take something as disastrous as secretly recording the firing of his FBI Director who is investigating him and push that off the front pages. By somehow, some way doing something worse even than that.
Worse that that?? How is that even possible? My Lord, how can one person do all of this???!!
How? By himself leaking "highly classified information" to the Russian Foreign Minister and Ambassador -- the very two men at the center of the Russia investigations -- who he himself invited into the Oval Office while keeping out all American press, yet allowing inside the Russian government's official news organization which brought in all its electronic equipment.
Do you have any idea how difficult it is to type all this and make it come out as coherent sentences?
And though White House officials, whose credibility these days is near-zero, are denying that Trump revealed any classified "methods or sources" (something not even suggested in the Washington Post article), every intelligence expert I have seen or read discounts their denials completely because there has been no denial of the actuall charge being made, that the president leaked critical details about an intelligence operation. What these intelligence experts all say -- all of them -- is that these leaked details are the sort of information that any capable intelligence service can easily connect the dots from and with that then figure out what the "methods and sources" are.
The thing is, it's even worse than all this, because it's not merely secret or classified information that Trump leaked, but what is known as "code word" level information that is substantially far-more sensitive, as sensitive as intelligence information gets. So much so that it is not to be shared with our allies and has such high restrictions that's it's not even to be disseminated to those in our own U.S. intelligence simply because they have Top Secret clearance.
(Side note. I had originally written "reportedly leaked," but bizarrely, Trump himself later confirmed the news story this morning in two tweets!)
But it's even worse than that. Because it doesn't "merely" impact just this specific story and the information that was leaked, but as all the intelligence experts I've seen have said, what this does is send a warning signal to all of America's other intelligence sources, whether ally nations or deeply-embedded security parters or individuals putting their lives at risk, and makes them all wary of passing along any information they uncover out of fear that it will be passed along to others, who pass it to the President of the United States...who might PASS IT ALONG TO THE RUSSIANS. Or any adversary.
Just to be clear, and reiterate, none of this is "reportedly," since Trump has himself confirmed that he leaked the information. He claimed he had the right to, although there is zero evidence that he has made an effort to declassify the "code word" level secret information -- intelligence so highly classified that it cannot be shared with ally nations -- but instead just blurted it out. (Keep in mind, too, that the president may have the "right" to declassify nuclear codes, but telling them to anyone, most-especially the Russians in front of Russian government media would not be considered a good or safe thing to do...) What Trump also did however is throw his National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster under the bus, destroying his credibility, sending him out yesterday to vehemently try to deny the story.
But let's put all the national intelligence details, news reporting, the denials, confirmations and national security protections on the back-burner for the moment and forget all that (if it's possible), because all of it is so complicated, convoluted and open to wide interpretations, ranging from problematic to disastrous, of "what really happened?" Instead, let's just look at this from a very simple, even basic human level that is near-impossible not to understand.
And what is that simple, basic level?
It's that during the presidential campaign, Republicans were hyperbolically angst-ridden and up in horrified arms with their ropes and pitchforks that Hillary Clinton (supposedly) "put us all at risk" because maybe, possibly some of the emails on her private server could have been confidential and therefore conceivably might have been hacked. And if so, if she (supposedly) possibly "put us all at risk" -- and never mind that that the FBI investigated this and determined that no laws were broken and no hack even likely occurred -- then outraged Republicans insisted in manic fury that law enforcement should "Lock Her Up!!!!" Lock her up. Because she put us all at risk! Battle cries that Trump himself bleated out relentlessly and led his supporters in their chants.
Keep in mind -- again putting aside that the FBI investigation showed no evidence of a hack or crime -- that there are many levels of something being classified. These range at the bottom from "Confidential" (which was the very worst the FBI may have found with the Clinton emails) up to levels like "Secret" and higher still to "Top Secret." And then branching out from that, "Code Word" information. Which is where we are with Trump.
And what we know, without even needing an FBI investigation or a single House hearing, let alone eight, but just using the basic concept of turning on the TV or reading a headline, is that Trump himself actually leaked the highest classified, most secret and protected "Code Word" level intelligence to the Russian Foreign Minister and Russian Ambassador who we know for a fact were in the Oval Office because they were photographed by official Russian news media -- and that is something that really, truly, actually does put us all at very real risk.
And for all that -- which is massive all on its own -- we still have the issues of Trump firing the FBI Director who was investigating his administration for ties to Russia. And both the Senate and House investigations into collusion with Russia and the hiring of a National Security Advisor who was fired for lying about ties to Russia. And whether the president was recording his visitors.
But perhaps (as difficult as it may be to believe) an even great threat to Trump and his circle that all of this are the new FBI investigations into criminal acts in regards to money laundering and racketeering with financial connections in Russia and with terrorist states. As the expression goes from Watergate -- follow the money. And they are. And from all reports, investigators are moving forward.
I would say that this was a horrific day for the Trump administration, but at this point that phrase would be meaningless. But it's worth saying it was a bad day for America. And for those who are actually concerned about who Put Us All At Risk.
And for anyone who wants to deny any of this is meaningful, we refer you to our default phrase: imagine if it had been Obama.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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