A new Washington Post report alleges that Trump gave Russian officials classified information
Frida Ghitis: If true, it's yet another example of the President's self-destructive behavior preventing the White House from functioning
Editor’s Note: Frida Ghitis is a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review, and a former CNN producer and correspondent. The views expressed in this commentary are her own.
The Washington Post published yet another bombshell report about our President Monday. The story, citing unnamed US officials, alleges that Donald Trump gave visiting Russian officials details of intelligence on ISIS and a plot to blow up planes using laptops – information that had been given to the United States by an ally.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and its ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, were made privy to information so secret that the United States had not shared with its own allies, according to the news report – but Trump bragged about it to officials from a hostile government. CNN has not confirmed the Washington Post report or a New York Times report that followed it.
But if it is true, it would reflect an unspeakable lapse in judgment and could have serious ramifications for US security and diplomacy. Trump, who complains bitterly about how others treat him, has once again with his own behavior – his own apparent inability to control himself – created yet another mess for himself and for the country.
In the process, he is showing Americans – once again – that he is utterly incompetent. Americans have been willing to tolerate from him crassness, vulgarity, and a break with the country’s norms and traditions, which he has sold with cynical slogans – he would “drain the swamp” and “make America great again.”
But constantly mounting evidence indicates that the claim of Trump and his supporters – that Trump brought one overarching strength to the office, a businessman’s competence – is also a fraud.
The State Department is denying that Trump revealed secret information in that meeting, which was closed to US reporters but included a Russian photographer. And H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser who participated in the meeting, insisted to reporters, “At no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed and the President did not disclose any military operations that weren’t already publicly known … I was in the room. It didn’t happen.”
But security experts say this is a non-denial denial. The Post’s sources say Trump did not directly reveal methods, but gave the Russians enough detail that they could “reverse engineer” the information to find its source and the methods used to obtain it, such as the city where the information was obtained, and other details. In addition, critics say that reports of the White House rushing to inform the CIA and the National Security Agency about the revelations to the Russians confirm they realized the President committed a major mistake.
Of course, much remains unclear about what happened inside the Oval Office and how far-reaching its effects might be.
What is clear is that this incident fits neatly into an alarming, unrelentingly chaotic pattern from our President.
Trump has claimed repeatedly that he is treated unfairly by the media, by the intelligence community and by the courts, but Donald Trump’s worst enemy is Donald Trump. Nothing has hurt the President, his governing agenda and his prospects for governing a full term more than his own statements.
Indeed, the Post report, which came Monday afternoon, followed the most recent court hearing that morning over Trump’s embattled, and so-far stalled, effort to temporarily ban people from six Muslim-majority nations from traveling to the United States. And his self-destructive behavior was reaffirmed minutes later during the daily White House briefing, when much of the questioning centered on the multiple crises spun by Trump’s own statements.