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.
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.
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.
At the 9th Circuit hearing, a three judge panel in Seattle listened as White House lawyers defended an executive order they had valiantly tried to sanitize in an effort to please the courts, which keep stopping it as unconstitutional. But the lawyers’ efforts could well be in vain, judging by the tone of the questioning by the judges (whom Trump has also attacked). Again and again, the lawyers’ and judges’ discussion went beyond Trump’s executive order to parse the President’s own statements — on the campaign trail, on Twitter and in speeches as President.
Judge Michael Daly Hawkins asked Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall for an update on the President’s views. “Has the President ever disavowed his campaign statements — has he ever said, ‘I said before I want to ban all members of the Islamic faith …. I was wrong?'”
“Yes,” Wall replied, “he has said several things approaching that.”
Neal Katyal, the lawyer for Hawaii, demurred. The government, he said, cannot offer a single instance of the President disavowing his promise to impose a “Muslim ban” — because he hasn’t.
Trump is making statements that may keep some supporters happy, but he’s also fueling a growing determination to stop his most egregious moves among those who see his presidency as an affront to democracy. For them, Trump is providing the most powerful ammunition.
The President personally put that on the national agenda when he tweeted the veiled threat against former FBI Director James Comey, telling him to be careful because he might release “tapes.” Now the White House refuses to answer any questions on the subject and Democrats are asking to see any existing tapes — and threatening to stall the appointment of a new FBI director unless they do.
When asked if anyone could be comfortable talking to the President in the White House any more, Spicer said Trump has nothing more to say on the subject.
Any of these earlier stories from the day — and from a long string of days — would have been enough to raise new alarm about the competency of the leader of the free world. The Washington Post report, if true, ups the ante in Trump’s already risky game.
Which straw will break the back of this presidency? It’s hard to tell, but the straws are getting heavy.
To Trump, all the headwinds are the result of bad judges, biased reporters, and Democrats bent on undermining his presidency. But it’s clear that Trump’s biggest problem is none other than Donald Trump.
Unfortunately for the United States, his apparently willful sowing of confusion and outright blunders, both of which hold potentially dire consequences, are a threat to the country’s security and to its most important alliances.