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Oops, He Did It Again: Donald Trump Just Can’t Stop Himself From Blurting Out State Secrets

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Every day he’s president, it causes damage — damage to the traditions of the office, damage to the federal government he’s busily downsizing, damage to our reputation overseas and damage to American culture. What’s truly infuriating about Donald Trump’s presidency so far isn’t solely his remarkably unspooled blurtings or his executive orders. It’s his unforced errors. Apparently, Trump’s endless roster of gaffes include accidentally revealing national security secrets and classified information. A lot.

You might recall how, during the drumbeat of revelations about Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, the president repeatedly said that the leaks were real, but the reporting was fake. For example: “The leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake.” In other words, the classified information leading to the ouster of Flynn — just 25 days into his gig in the Trump White House — is genuine. By clearly stating “the leaks are absolutely real,” Trump confirmed the authenticity of the information that was leaked to reporters from the Washington Post and the New York Times. Who the hell knows how this connects logically to the news being “fake,” but that’s Trump. He’s mentally unstable, so defying logic is what he does.

That wasn’t an isolated thing. It keeps on happening.

On Thursday night, Fox News Channel aired a segment from Tucker Carlson’s interview with the president, during which Carlson wondered why Trump doesn’t ask the heads of the intelligence community whether President Obama “wire tapped” Trump Tower during the campaign. Trump’s response was startling: “I just want people to know, the CIA was hacked, and a lot of things taken — that was during the Obama years. That was not during us. That was during the Obama situation. Mike Pompeo is there now doing a fantastic job.”

So in his haste to pin the WikiLeaks dump of hundreds of highly classified CIA documents on his predecessor, Trump appeared to confirm for the first time that the CIA was, in fact hacked under the previous administration. Bear in mind, obviously, that none of the reporting so far has revealed the actual source that provided the CIA documents to WikiLeaks. If past is prologue, then it was probably the Guccifer 2.0 hacker(s) backed by Russian intelligence.

To be perfectly clear: Trump may have inadvertently leaked classified information to Carlson on Fox News, and Fox News aired the leak. (Trump is planning to sue Fox’s competitor, MSNBC, for publishing two pages of his tax return from 2005.) Meanwhile, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, was outraged. The California congressman tweeted, “[The president] appears to have discussed something that, if true & accurate, would be classified.”

 

.@POTUS appears to have discussed something that, if true & accurate, would be classified. Had it been anyone else he would call it a “leak” pic.twitter.com/XedWH4CTNF

— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) March 16, 2017

It’s worth observing that when Trump previously said “the leaks are absolutely real,” he also warned, “We’re going to find the leakers and they’re going to pay a big price.” Well, if leakers must “pay a big price,” then so should Trump if his CIA remarks were, in fact, accurate.

Then, on Friday, Trump met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and did it again. The public side of the summit included Trump famously refusing to shake Merkel’s hand during an Oval Office photo-op, as if he’s not satisfied with the magnitude of our national mortification. Earlier, during a joint press conference, Trump turned to Merkel and blurted, “As far as wiretapping, I guess by this past administration, at least we have something in common, perhaps.”

It’s probably a good thing he included “perhaps” in there, because the rest of his statement appears to have confirmed the authenticity of a National Security Agency (NSA) document spirited away by Edward Snowden and published in the German newspaper Der Spiegel. Specifically, back in October 2013, we learned that Merkel’s cellphone had allegedly been wiretapped by U.S. intelligence. The Obama White House, however, never confirmed the veracity of that report. Obama merely pledged there wouldn’t be any wiretapping of Merkel during his administration. A pledge not to wiretap someone isn’t necessarily confirmation that it happened in the past, although it isn’t quite a denial either.

Therefore, Trump seemed to have confirmed that NSA had indeed hacked Merkel’s phone. If so, his seemingly offhand comment was another significant breach of national security.

During the transition, and even prior to the election, many of us worried that Trump might blurt out national security secrets he learned during his daily briefings with intelligence officials. He’s either too addled and mentally inadequate to stop himself from doing it, or he just doesn’t care: Anything to pursue his agenda of grievances and retribution, anything to deflect from the investigation into his possible collusion with the Russian government. Trump is a existentially dangerous chief executive, and we have to seriously ask the question: Why is he still at large?

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.

Obama Brings Middle-Class Message To Minnesota

By Baird Helgeson and Abby Simons, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

MINNEAPOLIS — President Barack Obama began a two-day visit to Minneapolis on Thursday sharing cheeseburgers with a local working mother and bringing a middle-class message tailor made to aid Democrats fearful of massive losses in the upcoming election.

Obama said he shares the frustrations of people who went to college, work hard, and still struggle to buy homes, pay for child care, and dig out from student loan debt.

“You are the reason I ran for office,” he told a crowd of about 350 people gathered for a town hall forum near Minnehaha Falls. In his early life, he said, “I was you guys … You are the ones I am thinking about every single day.”

Obama talked about progress his administration has made curbing greenhouse gases and making college more affordable, but devoted much of his time to touting the need for a higher minimum wage and equal pay and benefits for women. Those issues resonate strongly in Minnesota, where Gov. Mark Dayton (D) and a Democratic-controlled Legislature enacted the largest minimum wage increase in state history this year and approved a menu of economic protections for women in the workplace.

“The idea that they would not be paid the same or not have the same opportunities … is infuriating,” Obama said of female workers. “If you are doing the same job, you should get the same salary. Period. Full stop.”

Republicans have sharply criticized the president’s push for a federal increase in the minimum wage, saying it will cause businesses to shed jobs across the county at a time when the economy is teetering. They are loading up on new data that the economy is showing fresh signs of dramatically slowed growth, although in Minnesota unemployment is in the low single digits.

Republicans hammered on the president for talking to a friendly crowd in Minnesota that did not press him on the economy or other recent troubles in Washington.

“While President Obama is out surveying the economy his policies have failed to rejuvenate, hopefully he will take the opportunity to consider a different approach,” said Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Short.

U. S. Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), said the real reason Obama came to Minnesota is to raise money for congressional Democrats, highlighting the president’s appearance at a high-dollar fundraiser later in the evening.

Obama said his visit was prompted by a letter sent by Minneapolis’ Rebekah Erler, a 36-year-old working wife and mother of two preschool-aged boys.

Earlier this year, Erler, in a moment of frustration, wrote to Obama: “I’m pretty sure this is a silly thing to do, to write a letter to the president. But on some level, I know that staying silent about what you see and what needs changing never makes any difference. So I’m writing you to let you know what it’s like for us out here in the middle of the country.”

Erler wrote of a weakened housing market hit her family hard, causing her husband’s construction business to fold.

After moving from Seattle to Minneapolis, Erler’s husband is back working in the remodeling industry. Erler took out student loans to go to a local community college for retraining and now works as an accountant.

Last October, the couple bought their first home.

Erler’s story feeds into a broader narrative that both political parties are trying to leverage during upcoming election cycle. The Great Recession is over, corporate profits are up, and the stock market is surging back, but many middle-class families continue to struggle.

Before the forum, Obama joined Erler for a famed Jucy Lucy cheeseburger at Matt’s Bar in southeast Minneapolis. He surprised guests, going from table-to-table, shaking hands, and even posing for a picture.

“It was very heartfelt, and what she said just kind of touched a nerve” Ben Erlers said of his wife’s letter. “It was all her idea. I think after long day, that night she sat down and just wanted to say something.”

The original owner of Matt’s Bar, Matt Bristol, died the morning of the visit, never knowing the president planned to lunch at the famed burger joint.

Don Fleming, a 56-year-old maintenance worker for the Minneapolis parks department, said the president’s call for a higher minimum wage resonated with him.

He makes more than the minimum wage, but hopes a higher base will push his salary higher.

“I have never seen anything like it in my life,” said Fleming, who never imagined he would ever be so close to the president. “He’s real good. And I think he is doing the right things, helping the lower class.”

In the evening, the president attended a fundraiser for congressional Democrats at a home on Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis. The event was hosted by Sylvia and Sam Kaplan, a former Moroccan ambassador and major Obama contributors.

On Friday, the president’s last scheduled appearance is a speech at the Lake Harriet Band Shell.

Staff writers Rachel E. Stassen-Berger, Emma Nelson, and Jim Anderson contributed to this report.

Photo: Minneapolis Star Tribune/MCT/Monica Herndon

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