Today, the Washington Post reported that President Trump ignored the advice of his national security advisers when he congratulated Russian President Vladimir Putin on his reelection. According to the Post, there was a section in Trump’s briefing materials that said, in all-capital letters, “DO NOT CONGRATULATE.”
There are three elements to this story: Trump ignoring his advisers, Trump congratulating Putin, and at least one of his advisers leaking the story to the Washington Post.
The first element is a non-story. The president is not required to follow the advice of his national security staff, and is often wise not to.
The second element isn’t the end of the world, but it’s certainly a story. I’ll discuss the merits of congratulating Putin in another post.
The third element — the fact that word of Trump ignoring his advisers, complete with the “DO NOT CONGRATULATE” note detail, leaked to the press — is a big deal. As Chris Cillizza says, “the real story here. . .is that mere hours after Trump held a call with a foreign leader, the fact that he had gone against the advice of his national security team and congratulated Putin was leaked to the press.” Cillizza adds:
That level of information suggests a closeness to the President that doesn’t come from some junior staffer popping off. This feels like a purposeful leak at the highest levels of presumably the national security apparatus designed to publicly embarrass the President.
Indeed, it does.
President Trump is said to be furious, and he should be. But what is he prepared to do to stop the egregious leaking, of which the Putin call report is only the latest example?
It’s obvious, as Cillizza says, that this leak came from high up the White House food chain. There probably are only a few individuals who knew about the all caps on the do-not-congratulate note. Trump needs to figure out who leaked this information. Then, he needs to fire that person (or persons).
Earlier this month, after another Post story purported to reveal Trump’s mood swings, I asked:
Why doesn’t the president put a stop to this? Why doesn’t he demand that such leaking cease, and use a polygraph to find out where the next adverse leak comes from?
It’s time to use that polygraph, if that’s the only way to determine who the leaker is.