Feb 9, 2018

The rising Trump national security threat

Photo: Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images

Stemming from his flair for showmanship and notorious inattentiveness, President Trump has — largely as promised — blown up usual White House norms on the topic of national security, often prompting incredulous reporting and dire prognostications from geopolitical experts on cable news.

The latest: Trump doesn't read his President's Daily Brief, each morning's collection of the intelligence community's most pressing information, and instead relies on oral presentations that are "augmented with photos, videos and graphics," per WashPost.

Two other explosive national security stories in the past week, via The Washington Post:

  1. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had to ignore Trump's request for military options against Iran, including plans to attack Iranian ballistic missile factories and sink harassing Iranian speedboats.
  2. Dozens of top White House officials lack security clearances, including top adviser Jared Kushner — uncovered after staff secretary Rob Porter left his position following allegations of spousal abuse, which were first vehemently denied by the administration.

The breaks with national security tradition stretch all the way through the first year of the Trump administration:

  • Then-chief strategist Steve Bannon gained a seat on the National Security Council's "principal's committee" last January while top military and intelligence officials were booted. He remained in that position until an April reshuffle.
  • The president's staff pulled out classified documents regarding a North Korean missile test last year while Trump dined with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago, turning the resort's terrace into an "open-air situation room."
  • Trump revealed classified information about efforts to fight the ISIS — reportedly from key ally Israel — to top Russian officials in the Oval Office.
  • The administration seriously considered a "bloody nose" strike to rattle North Korea, which analysts warn could risk a storm of artillery fire on Seoul, South Korea's densely-populated capital.
  • He routinely needled North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Twitter, branding him "Little Rocket Man."
  • He undercut his own Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on North Korean negotiations, telling him he was "wasting his time" and promising to "do what has to be done" regarding the regime.

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