This is becoming funnier by the minute. Yesterday morning, Trump’s assertion that he and his campaign had been the subject of a wiretap ordered by the Obama administration was being laughed at. By midday the story was a denial that Obama himself had ordered an wiretap on Trump’s personal phone. By afternoon a consensus had developed that Trump was, in fact, the target, directly or indirectly, of surveillance. This morning on the talk shows the existence of the wiretap is treated as “of course it happened.” And now we’re at the stage where “Trump did a very bad thing by talking about it.” Via ABC News With tweetstorm, Trump may have exercised exclusive declassification authority.
If – through his tweets – Trump revealed secret government information about surveillance, he exercised an exclusive privilege afforded only to the president as the ultimate declassification authority.
If any other government employee had single-handedly made such revelations they could see prison time for potentially damaging U.S. national security, a former official with intimate knowledge of the government secrecy policies told ABC News.
“It’s an extremely serious offense,” ABC News Contributor Matt Olsen, who is the former director of the National Counterterrorism Center and a former FBI counsel, explained.
“Anyone who would reveal the existence of a wiretap would violate federal law,” he said. “It is against federal law to disclose the existence of a wiretap, whether that wiretap is for criminal purposes or intelligence purposes.”
Right now the only people in the world denying that electronic surveillance took place of either Trump, himself, or his campaign are Republicans who hate Trump. And James Clapper. But this is James Clapper we’re talking about.
It is sort of touching to see a news agency that has trafficked in all manner of leaked classified information that would get the leaker a long prison term suddenly concerned about national security. But it is hard to take it very seriously. The real point of this is to try to make Trump’s mention of the wiretap an issue. Up until now the Obama people have had the best of both worlds. They were able to leak about Trump and felt very safe that their own vulnerabilities would remain hidden behind security classification. If Trump wants to know how this movie ends he need look no further than Bush refusing to declassify information about the existence of Iraqi chemical weapons and the fact that US troops had been injured by them while allowing the media and Democrats to continue to falsely claim that there were no chemical weapons in Iraq.
In fact, the only reason this whole Trump-Putin-Russia thing has metastasized is because the evidence and even the allegations are surrounded in secrecy. If Trump wants this to go away he’s eventually going to have to present the intelligence community with an ultimatum: either you make the evidence public, or I do. Because, as the article accurately states, Trump holds the authority to declassify anything that he wishes to declassify.