Even the possibility that Trump jeopardized America’s most important intelligence asset in Russia should be a very big deal, though I’m not sure it will be. The pundit class has mostly grown bored of the story behind Trump’s corrupt relationship with Russia. And too many in power, including almost all of the Republican Party, have grown used to the president deploying national security secrets in the same way he once traded tabloid gossip. He discloses American intelligence to deflect attention from unflattering stories, suck up to people he wants to impress, or simply on a whim. He treats it, as he treats everything else in American government, as a private tool of self-gratification.
Trump, you’ll remember, was in office for only a few months before he revealed to Russia classified intelligence about ISIS that originated in Israel, potentially endangering a source who was, as The Wall Street Journal reported, “the most valuable source of information on external plotting by Islamic State.” This led a senior German politician to describe the president as a “security risk for the entire Western world.”
Not long after, Trump bragged to Philippine strongman Rodrigo Duterte about the presence of American nuclear submarines off North Korea. (“We never talk about subs!” stunned Pentagon officials told BuzzFeed News.) Then, that September, after a subway bombing in London, Trump tweeted out that the perpetrators “were in the sights of Scotland Yard,” information that had not been publicly released. This prompted a rebuke from the British prime minister.
Less than two weeks ago, Trump tweeted what was likely a classified photo of the aftermath of an explosion at an Iranian space center. From the image, journalists and internet sleuths were able to deduce important information about the type and location of the satellite that produced it. “This is the first time in three and a half decades that an image has become public that reveals the sophistication of U.S. spy satellites in orbit,” reported Wired.
And these are just his own disclosures. The president personally overruled intelligence officials to demand that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, be given a top-secret security clearance. Kushner, in turn, may have passed American intelligence to Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s homicidal crown prince; according to The Intercept, the prince boasted to confidants that he’d discussed Saudis disloyal to the regime with Kushner. Shortly after these alleged conversations, the crown prince initiated a purge.
You try to tell the kids today that coverage of the 2016 election was dominated by reporters who pretended to believe Republicans who pretended to believe that compliance with information security best practices was the most important issue facing the country and they won’t believe you.