President-elect Donald Trump spent his New Year's Eve covering for Russia's role in securing his own electoral victory by, among other things, promising to reveal secret evidence of Russia's innocence. What does Trump know, and when will we know it?
During a brief exchange between President-elect Donald Trump and reporters at his Mar-a-Lago estate on New Year’s Eve, Trump revealed that he has secret knowledge of Russia’s innocence in the hacks that the FBI and CIA say were intended to deliver him the election. Without saying where that secret information came from, Trump promised that he will be revealing it soon (emphasis mine):
REPORTER: It seems inappropriate for the occasion, but it seems like you have a tendency, looking at it from the outside, to doubt American intelligence when it comes to Russian hacking. I’m trying to better understand why it seems that way.
TRUMP: Well, I just want them to be sure. Because it’s a pretty serious charge and I want them to be sure. And if you look at the weapons of mass destruction, that was a disaster. And they were awful. And so I want them to be sure. I think it’s unfair if they don’t know. And I know a lot about hacking and hacking is a very hard thing to prove. So it could be somebody else. And I also know things that other people don’t know and so, they cannot be sure of this situation.
REPORTER: What do you know that other people don’t know?
TRUMP: You’ll find out on Tuesday or Wednesday.
REPORTER: Mr. President-elect, how much of an important role will cybersecurity play in protecting — the issue of cybersecurity in your administration?
TRUMP: Very important. You know, if you have something really important, write it out and have it delivered by courier, the old-fashioned way. Because I’ll tell you what, no computer is safe. I don’t care what they say. No computer is safe. I have a boy who’s 10 years old and he can do anything with a computer. You want something to really go without detection, write it out and have it sent by courier.
Setting aside Trump’s absurd “plan” for the moment, it is crucial to understand just what it is Trump is promising when he says he will be revealing secret information which exonerates Russia. The potential answers are all equally staggering and disturbing.
The first possibility is that Trump plans to reveal classified information that he obtained through security briefings, which would be a significant breach for a president-elect.
The second possibility is that he intends to reveal classified information that was leaked to him through some other means, an even more serious breach which could include selective or false information from sources not constrained by concern for America’s national security interests.
The third possibility is that Trump may present information obtained from parties directly interested in defending Russia, perhaps through intermediaries like Roger Stone. If the idea is to mount a defense of Russia, who better than the Russians to provide such a defense?
There is a fourth possibility, of course, which is that Trump’s “secret info” is as real as his secret plan to instantly defeat ISIS, for which we are all still waiting, or the big scoops his private investigators in Hawaii are turning up about President Obama.
In addition, Trump’s cybersecurity “plan” to abandon computers and handle all the important things via handwritten, courier-delivered notes likely runs afoul of the Federal Records Act, and contains one other glaring flaw noted by my colleague Leah McElrath:
Bin Laden's location was discovered when a courier was intercepted.
— Leah McElrath (@leahmcelrath) January 1, 2017
Trump’s remarks bespeak a desperation to cover up for Russia’s interference that is truly frightening. And that desperation could soon manifest itself in either a breach of national security information, or a campaign of foreign disinformation.