For many years, once the national conventions wrap up, major-party presidential nominees have received high-level intelligence briefings ahead of the election. The goal is entirely practical: if someone is poised to possibly become president, it’s important that they’re up to speed and fully prepared on Inauguration Day.
This year, however, isn’t a normal year, and several prominent figures – some in intelligence agencies, some Bush/Cheney administration veterans – have expressed concern about sharing sensitive information with Donald Trump. The man isn’t exactly known for his careful restraint.
And it’s against this backdrop that congressional Republicans have decided they don’t want Hillary Clinton to have classified briefings, either.
House Speaker Paul Ryan says Hillary Clinton can’t be trusted with classified information and is formally asking federal intelligence officials to deny the former secretary of State briefings during the fall campaign, a typical practice for both party’s nominees.In a letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper dated Wednesday and released on Thursday, Ryan wrote that the FBI’s admonishment of Clinton this week over her lax email practices as secretary of state needs to carry repercussions.
It’s not just the Speaker of the House who believes he’s in a position to judge who should and shouldn’t receive intelligence briefings – Senate Republicans are making the same demands.
If I had to guess, I’d say GOP lawmakers don’t actually care whether or not Clinton receives these pre-election briefings, and it’s likely they don’t believe their own talking points. Republicans are looking for a way to make headlines, and some GOP press secretaries probably argued that this stunt was the best way to keep the email story alive for another day or two.
But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a pretty dumb pitch.
First, the idea that the Obama administration and intelligence agencies are going to play favorites in the presidential race, sharing sensitive intel with the off-the-wall amateur and not the former Secretary of State, is plainly ridiculous.
Second, the idea that Clinton can’t be trusted (and Trump can) with classified information is obviously absurd. Sure, her email server protocols were a mistake, but as Paul Ryan and his cohorts no doubt know, she never came close to compromising national security.
So maybe the relevant players can act like grown-ups for a while and recognize that this little gambit is silly?
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, said this morning, “Providing an intelligence briefing for the party nominees is a sound practice, and is designed both to prepare the candidates for office and to help them avoid representations during the campaign that may adversely affect the national interest before or after election. The call by the House GOP Leadership to cancel briefings for Secretary Clinton and brief only Donald Trump is as predictable as it is absurd. These briefings are given because it serves the national interest to do so, and because one of the candidates will be the next President of the United States.”
Schiff added, “With Trump, the question isn’t whether the briefings should occur, but whether they would do any good.”