When the Trump administration decided to give cover to an accused spousal abuser, it opened the government up to blackmail. It's not the first time.
The Trump administration chose to keep aide Rob Porter on staff with access to classified material, even after the FBI refused to grant him permanent security clearance because of his assault record. That’s not just outrageous; it’s also dangerous for the country.
Porter is just the latest in a series of Trump officials with wide open vulnerabilities to blackmail an accusation Trump baselessly leveled at Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election.
In an interview with NBC, Porter’s ex-wife Jennifer Willoughby said that when she discussed allegations of abuse with the FBI, she also discussed the potential that Porter could be blackmailed.
“I believed that the people who had the power to blackmail him would be women who had been in personal relationships with him,” Willoughby explained, “so in short, the answer could be maybe.”
There is evidence that chief of staff John Kelly was aware of the abuse allegations and the related security clearance issues, but he did nothing about it. In the first few hours after reporters began to dig into the abuse case, Kelly stood by Porter.
Blackmail concerns have been raised about many of the central figures in the Trump White House. This includes Trump himself.
Trump would probably not qualify for a security clearance, based on his past dealings with unsavory Russian figures like mob bosses.
Meanwhile, Trump’s attorney reportedly paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 on Trump’s behalf, just a month before the 2016 election, to keep their alleged affair silent. That payment suggests Trump was susceptible to blackmail at the time of the payment, and it doesn’t exclude the possibility that he remains vulnerable to further blackmail over other details of that relationship or other as yet unknown relationships.
In congressional testimony last year, former acting Attorney General Sally Yates testified that then-national security adviser Michael Flynn was susceptible to Russian blackmail because of his undisclosed contact with Russian operatives.
“To restate the obvious, you dont want your national security adviser compromised with the Russians,” Yates explained.
Her warnings about Flynn to the administration were ignored, and she was fired soon after.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions lied about his contacts with Russian officials, including ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Former Bush White House ethics lawyer Richard Painter noted that Russia could easily have documented evidence of the meetings that they could use to bribe the senior law enforcement officer.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, still lacks permanent security clearance, yet he has access to confidential material. He failed to disclose multiple holdings and contacts on forms filed with the government, including a meeting with a Russian operative.
The incredibly casual approach to security by the Trump administration stands in stark difference to Trump’s attitude about security during the campaign.
Citing Clinton’s private email server, Trump said that America’s enemies “almost certainly” had clandestine blackmail files on Clinton and were privy to inside information about her. Trump and his surrogates including Flynn and Sessions repeatedly claimed that Clinton would be a reckless president because of her approach to sensitive information and her supposed vulnerabilities.
It is another one of Trump’s attacks, like claiming Clinton was a Russian puppet, that has boomeranged right back at Trump. He is left with egg on his face, as another one of his smears backfires. But now, his decisions have been proved to have left America wide open to attack.
Blackmailers have their choice of White House staffers, thanks to the administration’s serial ethical lapses and abject screw ups.