IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Trump continues to mishandle sensitive national security information

The broader issue isn't just the carelessness Trump showed on Sunday morning; it's also the frequency with which he's mishandled sensitive information.

When Donald Trump announced the demise of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the founder and leader of ISIS, the president made a variety of comments -- about the mission, about his background, about his record, etc. -- that were plainly false. NBC News' Courtney Kube and Carol E. Lee reported last night, however, that many of the other details "were either highly classified or tactically sensitive, and their disclosure by the president made intelligence and military officials cringe, according to current and former U.S. officials."

The overarching concern about Trump's disclosures on the al-Baghdadi raid, officials said, is that he gave America's enemies details that could make intelligence gathering and similar military operations more difficult and more dangerous to pull off. [...]Other information Trump discussed provided America's enemies with tactical details on how the military carries out a raid like the one on al-Baghdadi, officials said, including the robot, the helicopter flight patterns and how U.S. forces entered the compound.

There was, of course, a degree of irony to the circumstances: while the president was casually throwing around highly sensitive information, to the consternation of national security professionals, he was also complaining about "leaks" and others' inability to show discretion with classified materials.

But stepping back, the broader issue isn't just the carelessness Trump showed on Sunday morning; it's also the frequency with which he's mishandled sensitive national security information.

In fact, it's reached the point at which I came up with a Top 10 list.

Here's my entirely subjective rundown of the most egregious examples of Trump and his team saying far more than necessary about information that shouldn't have been disclosed.

10. In May 2017, Trump had a chat with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in which the Republican shared information about dispatching two nuclear submarines off the coast of the Korean peninsula. By one account, Pentagon officials were “in shock” over Trump’s willingness to share such information. “We never talk about subs!” three officials told BuzzFeed News, referring to the military’s belief that keeping submarines’ movements secret is key to their mission.

9. Trump has refused to give up his unsecured smart phones, which creates additional security risks.

8. In September 2017, the Trump administration divulged sensitive information about the terrorists behind the Manchester Arena bombing, infuriating the British government.

7. In September 2019, during a photo-op at an event along the U.S./Mexico border, the president seemed eager to boast to reporters about detailed technological advancements in border security. It fell to Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, the acting head of the Army Corps, to interject, "Sir, there could be some merit in not discussing that."

6. In February 2018, Trump ignored the pleas of many U.S. officials and recklessly declassified information from the so-called "Nunes Memo" in the hopes of advancing a partisan scheme.

5. In February 2017, Trump discussed sensitive details about North Korea's ballistic missile tests with the  prime minister of Japan at a Mar-a-Lago dining area, in view of wealthy civilians/customers.

4. Earlier this month, Trump publicly discussed American nuclear weapons in Turkey, something U.S. officials have traditionally avoided disclosing and/or confirming.

3. In August 2019, Trump published a tweet about a failed Iranian launch, which included a detailed photo. As MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell reported, it wasn’t long before observers expressed concern about Trump possibly releasing classified material.

2. Over the weekend, Trump blurted out all kinds of tactical and operational details about the al-Baghdadi mission.

1. Just four months into Trump’s presidency, he welcomed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak into the Oval Office – at the request of Russian President Vladimir Putin – for a visit that was never fully explained.

It was in this meeting that Trump revealed highly classified information to his Russian guests for no apparent reason. The Washington Post reported at the time, “The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.”

The Wall Street Journal added, “According to one U.S. official, the information shared was highly sensitive and difficult to acquire and was considered extraordinarily valuable.”

At this point, I imagine some of the president's detractors might suggest curtailing his access to intelligence briefings, but that's probably an unnecessary call: by all accounts, Trump often skips his intelligence briefings anyway.