I know I posted the usual weekly New American Resistance yesterday. I thought I was done until next week…annnnnnd then the Washington Post broke the story that Trump shared “highly classified information” with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak when they visited the White House last Wednesday. Both current and former U.S. officials have said the “disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.” So, post yesterday or not, this merits some reflection…
First, I encourage everyone to read the Post‘s article in full. To hit some of the highlights for you, the U.S. had no authorization to share what Trump so casually shared with Lavrov and Kislyak and the “details [that were shared] have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government .” The CIA declined to comment for the Post‘s piece and the NSA didn’t respond to requests but U.S. 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….At a more fundamental level, the information wasn’t the United States’ to provide to others. Under the rules of espionage, governments — and even individual agencies — are given significant control over whether and how the information they gather is disseminated, even after it has been shared. Violating that practice undercuts trust considered essential to sharing secrets.” So this damages our relations with our allies, with the global intelligence community, and puts our sources at risk. What Trump shared could allow the Russians to figure out the U.S. intelligence source/techniques in the Islamic State, something that’s problematic as Russia could seek to disrupt a source that would be placed to report on their activities in Syria as well.
So, obviously, this is kind of a big deal. For those with knowledge of the event, it seems Trump’s biggest reason for sharing what he did (outside of, you know, a status report any employee would have to make from time to time for their boss) was pride. The Post reported, “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.” Despite his boasts, the Post reported (and, again, I encourage everyone to read the piece in full), “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.”
When did all this happen?! When did we start literally living some 80’s dystopian/thriller movie where the United States has been corrupted by Russia and our secrets are being willingly handed over to “the Reds”?? The only difference, sadly, is a) we don’t have Kurt Russell, Patrick Swayze, Harrison Ford, or Sylvester Stallone to save the day and b) this isn’t a freaking movie this is real life and the man running the country is casually giving classified intelligence to the Russians as they chat. It’s worth noting too that the White House’s official outline of the meeting made no mention of this conversation about classified intel…a meeting, we all need to remember, the U.S. press was barred from attending while the Russian media was allowed in.
I’m…I guess I’m not certain where to go from here. What do we do? It’s a question I often ask myself and it seems all the more pertinent now. I’m just not sure what the real next step is.
I’ve yet to see any outrage from the GOP. There’s talk of how, “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.” There’s continued talk of how Russia can be an ally to fight ISIS. But the GOP doesn’t seem to care – at least not the majority of those holding office in Congress – that the man sitting in the Oval Office is sharing classified information with Russian officials – information he had no clearance to share – while being investigated for illicit ties to Russia. Can you imagine the outcry if President Obama had done anything remotely like this? The GOP would (rightly) be calling for his impeachment. But now, when it’s their fragile and lustful sense of power at stake, where are the cries of outrage? I can’t wrap my mind around the hypocrisy.
Was I proud of the job President Obama did in the White House? A lot of it, yes, I was. I was proud to have voted for him too. But I was honestly and deeply disappointed, saddened, and angry at things too. I was continually frustrated by his refusal to close Guantanamo Bay (and face the ire of those in government who opposed such an action) despite it being a pretty vocal campaign promise to do so on his first day in office AND it being something he could have done with an Executive Order. I was as angered as I was saddened at his escalation and normalization of the use of “unjust [drone] strikes,” taking scores of innocent lives – more lives, by far, than were lost with President Bush’s use of drone warfare. And as someone who’s already written passionately in this series about our need to welcome and shelter all human beings who need it least we risk abandoning the deeply American sentiment embodied in the Statue of Liberty to “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” I couldn’t have more strongly opposed his drastic hike in the forced deportations of immigrants which totaled more forced deportations than any president in history.
My point in all of this looking back is I can be happy “my guy” won the presidency. I can be proud of all he did that I supported over those eight years. I can even look wistfully back at the campaign promises that made me rally behind him in the first place…both those he saw through to completion and those that were abandoned along the way for a wide variety of reasons. I can even look at certain compromises he made and, while I may wish he did otherwise, I can understand why he made them. But I can also judge him for all he did that was morally reprehensible, unjust, or disheartening. I can make the distinction between what I support and what I couldn’t support and, I’d argue, I have the responsibility to do so. Our reason, logic, morality, and heart guide us in making those choices. There is nothing to gain and everything to lose in refusing to look at our elected officials in an honest light – even if, or especially if, we voted for them.
This is what we need to see now. For those Americans who passionately embraced Trump’s campaign or did so reluctantly, whether those elected officials who hitched their horse to his cart early on (like my own Mike Kelly PA-3…blah) or decided to love all Trump is because he brings “your side” power (like Paul Ryan), we all have to agree this connection to Russia is becoming more and more dangerous. And we don’t even know what the full reality of it is yet! But we need to find out.
Every day our reality becomes more and more the stuff of history books. I can imagine my future children or grandchildren asking, “Did this really happen…?” I will have to tell them yes. When they ask, “And what did you do?” I hope I can be proud of the answer. I don’t know what to do yet. (Yesterday’s post, if you haven’t read it yet, has different ways to ask our elected officials to pursue a full, free, and unbiased investigation into Russian collusion with Trump, his campaign, and his administration, among other things.) But I know we can’t ignore this. We can’t let our painfully short attention span as a culture sweep all of this under the rug, to be forgotten like so many other issues that have their fifteen minutes of fame and then fade from memory while their injustice remains. This isn’t just our reputation abroad that’s at stake here. Depending on how this Russian story unfolds this is our place in the intelligence community, the safety of our sources, the reality of America interests abroad, and – depending on what comes with the full investigation into the election – the very foundation of our country, of our democracy at stake here.