US President Donald Trump tries to listen to a question as walks on the South Lawn upon his return to the White House in Washington from Cleveland, Ohio, on...
YURI GRIPAS

Donald Trump makes a misguided pitch in support of ‘transparency’

The Rachel Maddow Show, 5/23/18, 9:23 PM ET

Schiff: DoJ briefing of Trump Russia source to include Gang of 8

Congressman Adam Schiff tells Rachel Maddow that he has been informed by an intelligence official that the DoJ briefing on the United States’ investigation of the Russian contacts made by members of Donald Trump’s campaign will include the bipartisan Gang
There are conflicting reports about who’ll be in attendance, but later today, some members of Congress will receive a highly sensitive intelligence briefing. At the insistence of Donald Trump, himself the subject of an ongoing investigation, federal law enforcement officials will take the unprecedented step of sharing information on a confidential human source.

The president spoke briefly with reporters yesterday and made a ridiculous claim about his motivations for interfering with the system of justice.

TRUMP: What I want is I want total transparency…. You have to have transparency.

Q: And Democrats?

TRUMP: Even they probably want transparency, because this issue supersedes a party…. We want transparency…. I think they want transparency too.

If this sounds a little familiar, it’s not your imagination. Earlier this year, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), a sycophantic ally of the White House, prepared a “memo” with classified information he wanted to release in order to help Trump. Ignoring the concerns of his own FBI director, the president endorsed the release of the document.

Team Trump insisted at the time that this was all about “transparency.” (Nunes’ memo ended up backfiring and leaving the president and his allies in a worse position.)

And at first blush, some might find the “transparency” pitch persuasive. After all, isn’t sharing pertinent information with multiple parties an inherently good thing? If the investigation is being conducted in an above-board fashion, there’s no reason to hide key details, right?

Wrong. There are three problems with the argument.

First, Trump and his team are the wrong people to make it. The president may tout the virtues of transparency when it suits his purposes, but this is the same Republican who hides his tax returns and the White House visitor logs, among other things. Trump may have said yesterday, “You have to have transparency,” but it’s apparently a principle he refuses to apply to himself.

Second, when it comes to federal law enforcement’s handling of confidential human sources, secrecy is often a vital necessity. If GOP officials, through their partisan antics, signal to the world that the United States is careless when protecting the identities of assets and informants, the consequences may be severe.

And third, we know that Trump’s “transparency” pitch is a sham – because his lawyer already told us why today’s briefing is happening. Rudy Giuliani conceded just this week that the president wants to know more about the nature of the evidence Special Counsel Robert Mueller has on the president.

“We can’t let our guy go in [to an interview] and be questioned without knowing this,” Giuliani told HuffPost on Monday. The report noted that the president’s attorney “acknowledged that the FBI releasing information about the source would benefit Trump’s defense.”

Giuliani added, “I don’t care so much about the name as I do about the content. What prompted them to do it? What did they learn from it?”

As Rachel noted on the show last night, everyone who’s under a federal criminal investigation would no doubt like to know what the FBI has on them, but apparently only the president can order the FBI to give that information to his pals.

So let’s not play games. Trump doesn’t give a darn about transparency; he cares about undermining an investigation that puts him in legal jeopardy.

Donald Trump, FBI and Justice Department

Donald Trump makes a misguided pitch in support of 'transparency'