May 16, 2017

JAMES MORROW: Not every scandal is a magic bullet, and the hysteria is helping Trump.

The pattern of the Trump-shared-secrets-with-the-Russkies story is predictable.

As is so often the case the Washington Post, which has made itself the unofficial house organ of America’s anti-Trump establishment with its new self-regarding slogan, “Democracy dies in darkness”, kicked things off.

They did this with an article citing “anonymous sources” who claimed that the president — whether in a fit of braggadocio, stupidity, or in partial payment for Moscow’s meddling with the election the Post leaves to the reader to decide — passed on exceedingly sensitive and restricted intelligence to the Russian ambassador and foreign minister in a meeting last week.

The information was so top secret, said the Post, that America hadn’t even shared the information with key allies.

All of this conjured images of Trump letting the Russians in on something really big, like exactly when all the generals take smoko at NORAD (“I tell you Vlad, they’re out there every morning at 9:30 like clockwork. And if they’re talking about what happened on Last Resort, they’re not back at their stations for, like, half an hour, easy.”)

And it immediately set commentators abuzz, with everyone who’d just settled down over the firing of FBI Director James Comey once again demanding Trump’s impeachment, this time for grievously damaging national security.

But as so often happens, the extent of what Trump actually told the Russians reality may be a bit more pedestrian.

The information in question is now said to have been about ISIS plots to sneak a bomb on to an airliner in a laptop, a plot device easily imagined by any Hollywood TV writer or paperback spy thriller author.

Indeed, if no other allies knew about the plot, then all credit to British officials who instituted a similar ban in the wake of the US’s move to ban laptops on flights from a number of Muslim-majority countries, as well as to Malcolm Turnbull, who is also said to be looking “very closely” at putting such a policy in place for flights to Australia.

And for what it’s worth, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster has denied anything inappropriate was shared with the Russians, though whether the word of a three star general can hold a candle to unnamed sources is an open question.

This is not to defend Trump so much as it is to plead for some sense of reality on the part of his critics, who see in every scandal a magic bullet that might restore the world to the way they think it should be.

Well, I’m still not sure exactly what’s going on — see Stephen’s post below for more — but what is clear is that they hope that if they gin up enough controversy, baseless or not, maybe it’ll give cover to an impeachment or 25 Amendment removal, or something. I don’t think it will happen and if it does — barring something a lot bigger and more uncontrovertible than anything they’ve come up with so far — you will have literal riots in the streets if Trump’s removed, far beyond anything you’ve seen from Democrat constituency groups like Black Lives Matter. Trump supporters have had it with the establishment, and are unlikely to go along quietly with a system they regard as deeply corrupt and devoted to their destruction. To the extent it’s interested in impeachment, the anti-Trump establishment, which likes to present itself as responsible and sensible, is playing with fire here, in a room full of gasoline that the establishment itself has pumped.

Exit question: We know of one clear-cut crime here, the leak to WaPo. Which senior Republican White House official — because who else could it be? — was behind that leak? And will Trump follow Obama’s lead and use the Espionage Act to try to find out and punish the leaker? Because Trump’s practically a dictator, and that’s what a dictator would do, right? Oh, wait . . .