The Most Serious Charge Ever Made Against a Sitting US President
So says Alan Dershowitz.
"This is the most serious charge ever made against a sitting president of the United States." -Alan Dershowitz, speaking abt WaPo report.
— Caroline O. (@RVAwonk) May 15, 2017
Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz called reports that President Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian officials “the most serious charge ever made against a sitting president.”
“In a discussion on CNN’s “Erin Burnett Outfront,” Monday night, Dershowitz said “everything else is off the table” after The Washington Post reported Monday that the president divulged to Russian officials details about the Islamic State’s threat to use laptop computers as bombs on planes.”
“Let’s not minimize it,” said Dershowitz, who is a contributor for The Hill.
“You’re saying this is the most serious charge ever made against a sitting president and yet it’s not criminal, it’s not impeachable, and yet it’s more serious than thins that were?,” asked CNN’s Burnett.
“Absolutely right,” he responded.
“Dershowitz reiterated his claim in a later interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, adding, “This is most serious accusation ever made against a sitting President, relating to national security, if it’s true.”
That was my first reaction too. At Lawfare-which is written by intelligence experts like Susan Hennessy and Ben Wittes:
“Bombshell: Initial Thoughts on the Washington Post’s Game-Changing Story.”
Game changing story.
“First, this is not a question of “leaking classified information” or breaking a criminal law. Let’s dispense with one easy rabbit hole that a lot of people are likely to go down this evening: the President did not “leak” classified information in violation of law. He is allowed to do what he did. If anyone other than the President disclosed codeword intelligence to the Russians in such fashion, he’d likely be facing a long prison term. But Nixon’s infamous comment that “when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal” is actually true about some things. Classified information is one of them. The nature of the system is that the President gets to disclose what he wants.”
Ok, but here’s the question then: what was all the hubbub over Hillary’s email server? There was all this outraged concern about what she’d do if she were POTUS. But if she were POTUS she’d be allowed to declassify whatever she wanted just like Herr Trump right? Yet somehow this was not the way the story was told.
It’s rather strange that ‘mishandling classified info’ is a problem in a Presidential candidate if any President once elected can mishandle it all they want to.
But that’s mere legality. Technically Nixon firing Archibald Cox was perfectly legal. But the first article of impeachment was his firing of Cox.
“Second, this is not a garden variety breach, and outrage over it is not partisan hypocrisy about protecting classified information.”
“The information allegedly disclosed here appears to be of an extremely sensitive nature. According to the Post, President Trump’s own aides “appeared to recognize immediately that Trump had overstepped and moved to contain the potential fallout” by contacting the directors of CIA and NSA. The Post does not report whether the White House also notified the foreign ally who provided the information of the compromise.”
“The information in question is of particular significance both because the Russians might be able to infer sources and methods, notwithstanding General McMaster’s careful statement that sources and methods were not “discussed,” and because it was shared with the United States by a foreign partner. Indeed, the Post story discusses the concern of U.S. officials that the Russians might inferentially “identify the U.S. ally or intelligence capability involved, and one official is quoted as saying that “Russia could identify our sources or techniques” based on what was disclosed. If true, Trump did not just jeopardize our own intelligence sources, but those of another country. Intelligence sharing relationships are critical to U.S. security interests around the world, and in particular in the fight coalition against ISIS. The United States intelligence community and military are simply not able to access every relevant source of intelligence and thus depends on a network of intelligence sharing partnerships. Breaching the trust of a foreign partner could substantially harm that relationship moving forward and could undermine the confidence of other foreign governments in the U.S. government’s ability to safeguard information.”
“Consider Israeli media reports from shortly before the inauguration that “Israeli intelligence officials [were] concerned that the exposure of classified information to their American counterparts under a Trump administration could lead to their being leaked to Russia and onward to Iran.”
“Third, it is important to understand the nature of sources and methods information in order to fully understand the gravity of the breach.”
“Fourth, it really matters why Trump disclosed this information to Russian visitors. The story is vague on this point. But the question of why Trump acted as he did will matter a great deal to how the political system absorbs this news. The implication of the Post story is that Trump acted impulsively and in a boasting kind of way. If that’s right, the matter is egregiously bad.”
This was something I questioned in an earlier post this morning.
Basically I’m not so willing to believe it was just impulsiveness. Once again the question begs Why Russia, why is it always Russia? With the investigation into possible collusion and all the ties people who work for Trump have been shown to have, it’s less plausible that this was only impulsiveness.
“But there are important questions on which Congress and the public will need clarity before deciding how to act. Did the disclosure serve a national security purpose, even in Trump’s mind? That is, if the President made a strategic judgment to release certain information in exchange for some anticipated gain, even if that judgment is wildly wrong, that is potentially less bad that if this is merely an example of loose lips sinking other countries’ ships–and our own country’s intelligence relationships. In other words, what Trump thought he was doing might well inflect whether we should see this as an act of carelessness, an act of carelessness bordering on treachery, or an act of judgment (even if misjudgment) of the sort we elect presidents to make.”
“Fifth, this may well be a violation of the President’s oath of office.”
“Violating the oath of office does not require violating a criminal statute. If the President decided to write the nuclear codes on a sticky note on his desk and then took a photo of it and tweeted it, he would not technically have violated any criminal law–just as he hasn’t here. He has the constitutional authority to dictate that the safeguarding of nuclear materials shall be done through sticky notes in plain sight and tweeted, even the authority to declassify the codes outright. Yet, we would all understand this degree of negligence to be a gross violation of his oath of office.”
“Sixth, it matters hugely, at least from an atmospheric point of view, that the people in the room were Russian and one of them was Sergey Kislyak of all people.”
I’ll say. Violation of his oath of office: sounds like grounds for impeachment to me.
P.S. As we saw in my poll out last week, the long awaited poll results are in, and right now I’m just 11 points down vs. Peter King (GOP-NY-District 2). And the voters don’t even know who I am yet.
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