First up today: Washington Post's explosive report from late yesterday detailing Donald Trump's alleged (and all but confirmed by Trump himself) sharing of highly classified information (reportedly now from Israel) during his recent meeting in the Oval Office with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and Ambassador Kislyak. The White House, largely via National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, strongly denies any wrongdoing.
We're joined to discuss that and what we know and don't about it all, by Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at NYU's Brennan Center for Justice. And, unlike those who are reporting that Trump broke no laws in his alleged disclosure of sensitive information regarding Daesh, Goitein argues the case is not so clear-cut.
Classification and declassification of sensitive information are spelled out by Executive Order of the President. "The existing Executive Order was written by President Obama. It is still in force unless or until Trump revokes it or replaces it," Goitein explains. "But President Obama himself would not have been bound by his own Executive Order. President Trump is not bound by that Executive Order. I think it's problematic that Presidents are not bound by their own Executive Orders. Or, I should say, it's problematic they can secretly depart from those orders. Ideally, we would have a classification Executive Order that says what the President can do, even if it's just 'The President is exempt from all of these rules.'"
However, Goitein suggests that even a President could face legal exposure via the Espionage Act of 1917. "The Executive Order is not the only law that is at play here," she tells me. "Congress has also stepped in on various occasions, to regulate the disclosure of national security information. And there are several statutes in which Congress has done that. The statute that seems most relevant here is the Espionage Act. And this is the law that President Obama infamously used to prosecute national security whistleblowers and others who leaked information to the media, rather than actual spies and traitors, which is whom the law was designed to address. But this law, on its face, prohibits the communication of information related to the national defense — whether that information is classified or not — to anyone not entitled to receive it if there's reason to believe it could be used either to harm the United States or to aid a foreign nation. So on its face, that statute would certainly seem to apply."
If only there was a taping system of some kind in the Oval Office so we could figure out who's telling the truth. Finally today, after disembarking from that insane news roller coaster, if only for the moment, we finish up today with Desi Doyen and our latest Green News Report, because the planet doesn't really give a damn about either national security or politics.
Have you heard the news? Sign up to our Telegram channel and we'll keep you up to speed!