Trump's U.N. ambassador appeared on Fox News to decry people who were spreading a story that includes classified information about North Korean anti-ship missiles. Which would seem to include Trump himself, for tweeting it out.
Stopping leaks has become an obsession with Donald Trump’s White House — an obsession that led to the rise and rapid fall of Anthony Scaramucci as communications director, but which has not subsided in the least.
Trump and his White House have increased attacks on leakers, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions even issuing an ominous warning to reporters that freedom of the press “is not unlimited.”
On Tuesday, when Fox News broke a story about North Korean military activity, which seemed to include sensitive information gathered from U.S. spy satellites, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley denounced those disseminating leaked information during an interview on “Fox & Friends”:
DOOCY: On the front page of Fox.com right now, there is a story that apparently the intelligence community has picked up anti-ship cruise missiles were being loaded onto a patrol boat or patrol boats in North Korea. What can you tell us about us about that?
HALEY: I can’t. I can’t talk about anything that’s classified, and if that’s in the newspaper, that’s a shame.
DOOCY: You have no reason to believe that’s not accurate, though.
HALEY: I have no reason to comment.
EARHARDT: If that shouldn’t be in the newspaper, is that another leak, I guess?
HALEY: You know, it’s one of these things — I don’t know what’s going on. But I will tell you it’s incredibly dangerous when things get out into the press like that. You’re not only just getting a scoop on something — you’re playing with people’s lives. And this has got to stop. Whatever the leaks are coming from, if somebody thinks they’re getting power or fame from it, all you’re doing is putting Americans in danger.
The only problem? Trump himself shared the Fox News tweet of the story. He then followed it up with this tweet:
After many years of failure,countries are coming together to finally address the dangers posed by North Korea. We must be tough & decisive!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 8, 2017
In one fell swoop, Trump confirmed the story’s authenticity, undermined Haley’s cautious position, and essentially “put Americans in danger,” exactly as she warns.
It is disturbing enough that Trump appears to be giving more weight to a Fox News report than his own intelligence briefings. It is even more disturbing that he is making grand policy pronouncements based on the very “leaks” he and his administration claim are making everyone less safe.
Haley is right that the U.S. needs to be more guarded about sensitive military information. But that care has to start at the very top — and the commander in chief seems to be incapable of exercising it.