By : Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
Posted : May 16, 2017
(CNN)President Donald Trump’s decision to apparently share top-secret classified information from a foreign ally with two top Russian officials last week, according to sources who spoke with CNN and The Washington Post, seems, on its face, inexplicable.
After all, Russia actively meddled in the 2016 election. And the country has not exactly been a cooperative player on the world stage over the past decade or so.
And yet, Trump did what he did. Despite denials by national security adviser H.R. McMaster of the original reporting on this by the Post as well as sources who spoke with CNN, Trump came out and essentially confirmed this morning on Twitter that he had shared information with the Russians.
There are two obvious options — and a third that Trump seems to be trying to sell this morning that seems, to be honest, a bit far-fetched. The first two options are bad and worse for Trump, the Republican Party and the country more broadly.
Option # 1: Trump didn’t really know what he was doing
Trump is not someone who spends much time learning the intricacies of diplomacy and information sharing. He ran as a candidate who eschewed any sort of formal briefings, believing that his gut instincts were the best guide he could have.
Given that, it’s uniquely possible he didn’t know that what he was doing by apparently disclosing this sort of top secret information to a country that may well not have America’s best interests at heart.
Maybe he wanted to impress Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak with his knowledge — and what better way to do so than to tell them a tidbit of information they didn’t know?
Option #2: Trump knew what he was doing
Democrats have insisted for months that there are simply too many connections between Trumpworld and the Russians for moments like this to be coincidences. As in, where there’s smoke and smoke and smoke and smoke, there has to be fire.
«As Yogi Berra said, ‘It’s too much of a coincidence to be a coincidence,'» House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told CNN’s Chris Cuomo in an interview in Washington Monday night. Later, she added: «Every day I ask the question: What do the Russians have on Donald Trump? He’s always catering to them.»
Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, which happened, amazingly, just a week ago, already had Democrats on edge. This latest report of the sharing of classified information with the Russians will convince them even more of the necessity of a special prosecutor.
Option #3: Trump is playing 3-dimensional chess
What Trump is trying to sell this morning in two tweets is that he a) knew what he was doing and b) everyone else just can’t see the long game like he can.
«As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining…to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism,» he wrote in a pair of tweets.
So, Trump apparently revealed this bit of classified information — that the US had agreed not to share — because it will bring Russia into the tent when it comes to the fight against ISIS. That if we give Russia a bit of carrot, we will reap major rewards from it.
Recent history would suggest that Russia will do and say whatever it needs to in order to advance its agenda. So Kislyak and Lavrov might have insisted to Trump that by sharing this information, which was not his to share, he would further strengthen the bonds between the two countries. But, that’s what they do. We have zero evidence from the recent past to suggest that even if they made that sort of promise to Trump, the Russians would actually make good on it.
This latest news, like much that’s come out of the White House in Trump’s first 116 days, feels like an action in search of a explanation. And that’s a very bad place to be.