(Quin Hillyer, Liberty Headlines) The release of transcripts of President Trump’s January conversations with the leaders of Mexico and Australia led to two inescapable conclusions, according to observers across the political spectrum.
The conclusion of lesser importance, believe it or not, was that Trump again was caught in an incontrovertible lie.
The conclusion of greater importance, one to which even some of Trump’s harshest critics attest, is that the leaking of the transcripts was probably criminal and is certainly dangerous to American security.
First, and only very briefly, the lie:
After reports surfaced that these particular phone calls with allied leaders involved a peevish Trump creating an unseemly verbal confrontation that was inappropriate for the circumstances, Trump insisted that the Australian call in particular was a “very civil conversation that FAKE NEWS media lied about.” But in truth the news was real and Trump’s Tweet was untruthful. As the transcripts reveal Trump said himself, before abruptly ending the conversation with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, “this is the most unpleasant call all day. Putin was a pleasant call. This is ridiculous.”
Even so, many analysts agree that Trump’s public fib was nowhere near as dangerous as was the leak of the transcript that proved he was fibbing.
Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a frequent Trump critic, had these comments: “I think it really is a disservice to the president this happened. Could you imagine being president of the United States, having a conversation with a foreign leader and that conversation being divulged to the media? It’s just not fair to President Trump.”
Graham went onto to state, according to the Daily Caller, that he hopes the leaker is caught and “punished.”
“You just can’t have people in the government, working for the president, picking and choosing what to leak,” Graham said. “That’s just wrong.”
National Review writer David French, such a critic of Trump that he came close to running against him as an independent candidate last year, also blasted the leaker more than Trump: “The leaker didn’t just break faith with the president; he broke faith with allied foreign leaders who also have their own legitimate interests in confidential communications. Should future presidents and allies now wonder if their communications will be highlighted, dissected, and splashed across the web? The leaker endangered the integrity of presidential communications….”
At Fox News online, reporter Alex Pappas found at least two former federal prosecutors and another Trump-averse Republican senator who all said they thought the leak likely was a criminal offense.
“The series of acts involving release of notes of the president’s conversations with foreign leaders, and these transcripts, are a serious threat to national security,” explained Joe diGenova, the Reagan-era U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.
As even the Washington Post had noted, the transcripts had been classified.
All that said, perhaps the most notable essay was from longtime center-right pundit and onetime G.W. Bush aide David Frum, long one of the harshest critics of Trump around. Even Frum wrote that the leak was far worse than Trump’s lie.
“Leaking the transcript of a presidential call to a foreign leader is unprecedented, shocking, and dangerous,” wrote Frum. “It is vitally important that a president be able to speak confidentially—and perhaps even more important that foreign leaders understand that they can reply in confidence.”
[T]he workings of the U.S. government have been gravely compromised, and in ways that will be very difficult to repair even after Trump leaves office. Trump’s violation of basic norms of government has driven people who would otherwise uphold those norms unto death to violate them in their turn. Contempt for Trump’s misconduct inspires counter-misconduct.
Nor is that the end. The less Trump can trust the regularly constituted government, the more justified he will feel in working irregularly. His irregular actions then justify more counter-irregularity from the rest of the government.
“The ultimate cost,” Frum concluded scathingly about the work of the leakers, “will be borne by “[Trump’s] successors and the American nation.”
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In short, it’s not just Trump who should feel aggrieved, but all of us. This is the reliability of our government, our international standing as a beacon of decency, now at risk – from a leaker blinded by politics, violating the nation’s trust.