So a couple of days ago we explained, by way of a short story about Dresden ca. 1989, why it’s a really – really – bad idea for Donald Trump to be commiserating with the Kremlin (well, first of all it’s treason, but even above and beyond that).
You’re encouraged to read the entire post, but for those who missed it, here’s a quick recap:
Everyone loves to make jokes about the ridiculous images you can find on Google of Putin firing guns, riding horses shirtless in the wilderness, body slamming people, etc., but amid the hilarity, it’s important to remember that this motherfucker is anything but a joke.
Remember, Putin was just 36 years old when, in 1989, he single-handedly saved the Dresden KGB office from an angry mob. First he burned the office’s important files and then, according to legend, he walked out the front door and pointed a pistol at the crowd while calmly explaining that the first motherfucker who tried to ransack the building was gettin’ shot.
So that’s why people who actually know anything about foreign policy think this is such a precarious situation. You’ve got a complete buffoon that was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and went on to become a reality TV show host trying to collude with a guy who basically pulled an “Enzo The Baker” as the Berlin wall fell, only instead of pretending to have a gun and guarding one man in a hospital against 4 mobsters, “Enzo The Russian” actually had a gun and he was guarding a KGB office full of sensitive information against a rioting mob of East Germans.
How do you imagine the silver spoon/ reality TV show host is going to get treated in that arrangement?
The point there is simple: Donald Trump is way out of his league.
Really, there aren’t a whole lot of heads of state that aren’t out of their league when it comes to dealing with the Kremlin, but with Trump, it’s the worst possible scenario. Here’s a complete government neophyte who also isn’t very smart and then on top of it all, he’s either i) being extorted, or ii) genuinely thinks Moscow likes him. It’s not really clear which of those possibilities is worse, but needless to say, neither of them bode well for national security.
So the article from which the excerpted passages cited above are pulled highlighted the fact that Trump, at the request of Putin, met with Sergei Lavrov and Sergey Kislyak at the White House just hours after firing the FBI Director in charge of investigating the administration’s ties to Moscow.
Clearly, the optics around that were terrible, but either Trump didn’t give a shit, Putin insisted on it so Trump didn’t have a choice or, more likely, both. The end result was this rather disconcerting photo op that Russia, supposedly to the dismay of the White House, plastered all over social media:
Again, that was taken just hours after Trump fired Comey. You’re also reminded that Sergei Lavrov (left) lampooned Comey’s firing in a presser with Rex Tillerson that took place just before the picture shown above was taken.
Well just when you thought that story couldn’t possibly get any worse, it did.
Here’s WaPo out Monday evening:
One day after dismissing Comey, Trump welcomed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak – a key figure in earlier Russia controversies – into the Oval Office. It was during that meeting, officials said, that Trump went off script and began describing details of an Islamic State terrorist threat related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft.
For almost anyone in government, discussing such matters with an adversary would be illegal. As president, Trump has broad authority to declassify government secrets, making it unlikely that his disclosures broke the law.
“The president and the foreign minister reviewed common threats from terrorist organizations to include threats to aviation,” said H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, who participated in the meeting. “At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed, and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly.”
The CIA declined to comment, and the NSA did not respond to requests for comment.
But officials expressed concern about Trump’s handling of sensitive information as well as his grasp of the potential consequences. Exposure of an intelligence stream that has provided critical insight into the Islamic State, they said, could hinder the United States’ and its allies’ ability to detect future threats.
“It is all kind of shocking,” said a former senior U.S. official who is close to current administration officials. “Trump seems to be very reckless and doesn’t grasp the gravity of the things he’s dealing with, especially when it comes to intelligence and national security. And it’s all clouded because of this problem he has with Russia.”
In his meeting with Lavrov, Trump seemed to be boasting about his inside knowledge of the looming threat. “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day,” the president said, according to an official with knowledge of the exchange.
Trump went on to discuss aspects of the threat that the United States learned only through the espionage capabilities of a key partner. He did not reveal the specific intelligence-gathering method, but he described how the Islamic State was pursuing elements of a specific plot and how much harm such an attack could cause under varying circumstances. Most alarmingly, officials said, Trump revealed the city in the Islamic State’s territory where the U.S. intelligence partner detected the threat.
The Washington Post is withholding most plot details, including the name of the city, at the urging of officials who warned that revealing them would jeopardize important intelligence capabilities.
Senior White House officials appeared to recognize quickly that Trump had overstepped and moved to contain the potential fallout.
Thomas P. Bossert, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, placed calls to the directors of the CIA and the NSA, the services most directly involved in the intelligence-sharing arrangement with the partner.
One of Bossert’s subordinates also called for the problematic portion of Trump’s discussion to be stricken from internal memos and for the full transcript to be limited to a small circle of recipients, efforts to prevent sensitive details from being disseminated further or leaked.
U.S. officials said that the National Security Council continues to prepare multi-page briefings for Trump to guide him through conversations with foreign leaders, but that he has insisted that the guidance be distilled to a single page of bullet points – and often ignores those.
“He seems to get in the room or on the phone and just goes with it, and that has big downsides,” the second former official said. “Does he understand what’s classified and what’s not? That’s what worries me.”
So while that’s obviously horrible, it’s also hilarious.
Because think about it…
There’s really no telling whether Lavrov and Kislyak had to coax this out of him or whether they both just sat back and kind of looked at each other in disbelief as Trump inexplicably volunteered sensitive information.
Ultimately this, like so many other Trump/Russia stories, can be summed up with one short clip…