Surprisingly, President Donald Trump has gotten a few things right lately: There is indeed a White House leak, and Trump does have the "absolute right" to share classified information at his presidential discretion.
However, the truth doesn't look favorably on him nor the American people; it turns out that Trump himself is a White House leak, and the president is lining up to be one of the greatest threats to the nation's safety.
As commander-in-chief, Trump not only has his hands on the nuclear codes, but he also has the power to open his mouth anytime he wants. On Monday, The Washington Post reported that Trump had revealed "highly classified information" to Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during their meeting at the White House last week. As he does in most matters of State, Trump took to Twitter to give his opinion of the events:
As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017
...to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017
While he does admit to sharing "facts," he does not explicitly deny sharing classified intelligence with the Russian officials; neither did National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster.
In a statement, McMaster described the president's releasing of information within the context of the conversation as "wholly appropriate." He also attempted to explain away the original Washington Post report by insisting that if any U.S. officials notified American intelligence agencies of a potential breach, it was maybe from "an overabundance of caution."
Perhaps that's because the president seems to have none.
While accounts differ greatly, and will probably continue to do so as is typical of the Trump administration, there is a fact at the heart of this story that Americans would be gravely mistaken to lose sight of: Trump's power as president and how that could so easily lead America into even darker waters.
Just because a president can leak classified information does not mean they should.
Part of choosing a decent president is voting for a person whose judgment calls are guided by placing America and its people as a priority — something not widely associated with Trump. Any decision to leak intelligence is a risky one, but with Trump in office, it becomes dangerous.
California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff stated the risks in a tweet on Tuesday.
Mr. President, this isn't about your "rights," but your responsibilities. You could jeopardize our sources, relationships and security. pic.twitter.com/QwnzI7Mdgv— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) May 16, 2017
Republican congressman are also critical of Trump's move, worried it will alarm allies and make them reconsider sharing information with the U.S.
“Reports that this information was provided by a U.S. ally and shared without its knowledge sends a troubling signal to America’s allies and partners around the world and may impair their willingness to share intelligence with us in the future,” said Republican Sen. John McCain in a statement on Tuesday.
To top it all off, it is terrifyingly poor judgment on Trump's part to consider it safe to discuss any intelligence with Russia at all, given that the country is currently under investigation for allegedly interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election; the Trump camp itself is under investigation for its alleged ties to the nation.
Trump has made much noise about White House leaks in the past, calling it "Very un-American!" in one Twitter tirade and "So serious!" in another. He's not necessarily wrong, but he does need to take a moment to look in the mirror on his way out the White House door. Awesome power comes with awesome responsibility; Trump's responsibility should be to the American people, and no one is more at risk than them if it is not.