For President Donald Trump and his administration, the last 48-hours just kept getting worse-and-worse.
The past 48-hours haven’t painted President Donald Trump all that well, which is saying something, considering his first few months of his presidency can best be described as… chaotic. Yeah. Let’s go with that. Chaotic.
Late Monday, the Washington Post reported that President Donald Trump had accidently (or he’s saying on purpose now??) given confidential intelligence to Russian diplomats last week. Then, not more than 24-hours later, The New York Times reported, that in a closed door meeting, President Trump had told then FBI Director James Comey to stop investigating Michael Flynn over his ties to Russia.
So yeah, there’s a lot to unpack here! In that case, it’s best just to dive right in!
Takeaway #1: When President Trump Disclosed Intel to the Russians, It Wasn’t Illegal
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
Here’s a phrase that hasn’t been uttered very often since Donald Trump became president; Donald Trump is right!
While there are NUMEROUS THINGS wrong with President Trump telling Russian diplomats confidential US intel, but here’s the thing, nothing he did was illegal. While some had pointed to President Trump violating the Espionage Act, however as President, Trump has broad discretion to declassify intelligence whenever he deems necessary. For that reason alone, it’s doubtful President Trump would be in trouble for treason.
The bottom-line is that the president controls confidential information. Constitutionally speaking, it’s the executive branch’s call in deciding what information is confidential and what isn’t. Even though leaking confidential information would be an act of treason for basically anyone else, it’s almost impossible for the president to be tried for treason.
Now with that said…
Takeaway #2: With Allegations of President Trump Impleading the FBI’s Investigation, Impeachment Could be on the Table
I've been resistant to impeachment talk until now, but if Comey memo is true-and Comey is very credible-we are into a whole new deal here.
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) May 16, 2017
Before we go any further into talking about the “I”-word, we should preface this upfront.
The chances of President Trump getting impeached while he’s in office, is almost impossible while Republicans control both the House and Senate. A big misconception of the impeachment process is that it’s a legal procedure, but in actuality, it’s strictly a parliamentary procedure (similar to how legislation is passed or how political appointments are confirmed). Realistically, for President Trump to be impeached, Democrats would have to win back both the House and Senate in the 2018 Midterm Elections. Because of that, if Trump is to be impeached as president, it probably won’t happen till 2019.
Now with all that said, in impeachment proceedings, “obstruction of justice” is usually the first charge brought upon a president. So when a president tells an FBI Director to “let this go” regarding the investigation of his former National Security Advisor, who had to resign because of alleged ties to a hostile nation that you’re also being questioned about; well, that’s the textbook definition of obstructing justice!
Considering Congress is now asking for James Comey to testify and the FBI to turnover any memos that he had written, suddenly the “I”-word isn’t so out of the question…
Takeaway #3: President Trump’s Reckless Actions Have Very Clear Consequences
At this pace, the Trump Presidential Library will have only contain a picture of Trump and Gorsuch smiling. https://t.co/ta6s8bTXuu
— Jay Cost (@JayCostTWS) May 17, 2017
In what we have learned in the past 48-hours, it’s almost impossible to justify what President Trump did.
What makes this more maddening is that Russia does not share the US’ foreign policy interests. Especially when it comes to dealing with terrorist organizations like ISIS. Considering they’re directly backing the Assad regime in Syria, US intel regarding ISIS could be a major strategic boon for Russia, an area where their interests most definitely don’t align with the US’.
Also on an administrative level, this makes it almost impossible for the Trump administration to properly govern within the executive branch! Between the firing of James Comey as FBI Director and leaking classified US intelligence, multiple reports have intelligence agencies now being very hesitant of collaborating with the White House. And rightfully so.
For intelligence agencies like the FBI or CIA, confidential information is shared on the understanding that the information won’t be dispersed without their general permission. However, if you have a president giving away confidential information to hostile foreign entities (ie Russia), then that trust between intelligence agencies and the executive branch could be completely severed. If that happens, creating appropriate foreign policy measures become almost impossible.
That’s a problem that can’t be fixed easily.
Takeaway #4: It’s Getting Harder-and-Harder for the GOP to Brush-Off President Trump’s Actions
The FBI's decision regarding Clinton's mishandling of classified emails once again proves that she is DQ'd from being Commander in Chief.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 5, 2016
The Daily Show on Monday did an impressive job of finding tweets from Republicans that had criticized Hillary Clinton over her private email server and how it handled classified information. But now, in regards to President Trump leaking classified information to Russian diplomats or having potentially obstructed and FBI investigation…
For Republicans, having a president that isn’t interested in the details of public policy, is a boon for the Congressional GOP. In many ways, it gives them way to create a conservative agenda without the usual pushback from a presidential administration that tries to influence policies toward the center. But as we all see now, this is coming at a cost.
Over the past few months, Republicans have defended President Trump on some of his most questionable decisions while in the White House. But if the stories of President Trump trying to obstruct an FBI investigation are true, then Republicans find themselves in a place they most definitely don’t want to be; defending an indefensible president.
From here on out, it’s only going to get harder for the GOP.
(Photo Credit: Russian Embassy Flicker)