Here's the thing: It's very likely that what Trump did in that meeting with Russia was legal ... but that's not the same as saying that it was appropriate or helpful or not damaging to national security. The president has broad authority to declassify information that he feels the need to share, but sharing this information willy nilly with adversarial foreign powers -- including one with very different goals in Syria -- would seem to raise obvious red flags.The standard put forward by McMaster for what is not only legal but also appropriate means that basically anything the president might share is appropriate, simply by virtue of it coming from the president.... To take this to a ridiculous extreme: If Trump decided to broadcast the nuclear codes live on Fox News, by McMaster's logic, as long as Trump deemed this necessary for national security purposes, it would be appropriate.
Nine times. White House National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster hosted a press briefing today in which he said, nine times, that Donald Trump sharing classified information with Russian officials in a private meeting was "wholly appropriate."As the Washington Post noted, that wasn't much of an argument.
But in between incessant references to what he thinks may be "wholly appropriate," the president's national security advisor seemed to accidentally add an important detail: Trump, McMaster said, wasn't even "aware of where this [intelligence] came from. He wasn't briefed on the source of this information."Moments later, McMaster said he had to go, and as a result, there was no follow-up Q&A.And that's a shame, because the White House national security advisor had just admitted an important detail: Trump gave highly sensitive intelligence to Russians without fully understanding just how highly sensitive it was.At a certain level, this may seem beneficial to the president. If Trump wasn't properly briefed on the intelligence, maybe some of his aides -- including, presumably, McMaster himself -- are partially responsible for the disclosure to Russian officials.But that only opens the door to a conversation the White House doesn't want to have: it's quite likely that Trump aides provide the president with the most superficial briefings possible because he has the attention span of a toddler, and his willingness to sit through nuanced and detailed policy briefings is a joke.Responding to McMaster's defense, Dan Pfeiffer, a former top official in Barack Obama's White House, wrote, "You cannot overstate how unprepared and ill-suited Trump is for the presidency and how poorly his White House is run. Pure amateur hour."