WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 03: (AFP OUT) US President Donald Trump flanked by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (R) looks...
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Donald Trump steps on his aides’ narrative (again)

Updated
Last week, after Donald Trump fired the FBI director overseeing an investigation into Trump’s Russia scandal, White House aides, including Vice President Mike Pence, were quick to insist the two stories were completely unrelated. The president himself said soon after that he was motivated to dismiss James Comey because of the investigation, making his own team look ridiculous and dishonest.

This morning, it’s happened again, this time on the matter of Trump sharing highly sensitive secrets with Russian officials.

Last night, as Team Trump scrambled to contain the damage of its latest self-imposed scandal, the White House insisted the reports were wrong. Dina Powell, a deputy national security advisor, insisted, “This story is false. The president only discussed the common threats both countries faced.” Soon after, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson both made similar attempts to knock down the allegations. The president, they insisted, didn’t do anything of the kind.

And once again, Trump has decided to step all over his team’s narrative by sharing his thoughts via Twitter.
President Donald Trump argued Tuesday morning that he has the “absolute right” to share certain information with Russia after bombshell reports emerged that he revealed highly classified intelligence with Russian officials last week.

“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 to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism,” he said in a pair of tweets.
A Washington Post report added, “Trump’s tweets undercut his administration’s frantic effort Monday night to contain the damaging report.”

They do, indeed. After the White House tried to convince everyone the reporting was wrong, Trump decided this morning to suggest in poorly written missives that the reporting was right – but it doesn’t matter because he has the “absolute right” to disclose secrets to foreign adversaries if he wants to.

Let’s unpack this a bit.

First, members of Team Trump surely realize by now that their boss is humiliating them without any real forethought. If they choose not to resign, they’ll do further damage to their reputations.

Second, the president may have the “right” to share secrets, but that legalistic defense is spectacularly unpersuasive. We’re talking about a story in which Trump compromised national security, mishandled extremely sensitive information, infuriated an ally, and sent a signal to the world that the United States, at least in the Trump era, cannot be trusted to safeguard secrets.

To respond by effectively saying, “Yeah, but Trump can technically do that within the law” might work in court, but it’s not much of an argument.

And finally, this White House has created a credibility crisis that won’t fade anytime soon. The president argued last week that he and his team are too busy to worry about “accuracy,” and Team Trump now appears to be working hard to prove the point.

NBC News’ First Read, reflecting on a different Trump scandal, added last week, “[W]hat happens when there’s a story outside the White House’s control (like war, natural disaster, or another kind of tragedy)? Those are times when a president and White House will need a deep reservoir of credibility with the American public. But what happens when that reservoir is empty?”

Donald Trump and White House

Donald Trump steps on his aides' narrative (again)

Updated