The Obama administration leaked details of a national security intelligence briefing given to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in an attack on him relayed by Time magazine published Thursday.
Ironically in the Time article with the title, “How Russia Wants to Undermine the U.S. Election,” the Obama administration is trying to undermine the U.S. election by leaking information from Trump’s classified briefing to hurt him with the electorate.
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All of which makes Donald Trump’s repeated insertion of himself into the U.S.-Russia story all the more startling. Trump has praised Putin during the campaign, and at the first presidential debate, on Sept. 26, he said it wasn’t clear the Russians were behind the DNC hack. But the U.S. intelligence community has “high confidence” that Russian intelligence services were in fact responsible, multiple intelligence and national security officials tell TIME. Trump was informed of that assessment during a recent classified intelligence briefing, a U.S. official familiar with the matter tells TIME. “I do not comment on information I receive in intelligence briefings, however, nobody knows with definitive certainty that this was in fact Russia,” Trump told TIME in a statement. “It may be, but it may also be China, another country or individual.”
Trump was criticized for discussing the demeanor of his briefers, not the intel, in comments made a few weeks ago at the Commander-in-Chief forum.
Politico reported in an article titled, “Former intelligence officers alarmed by Trump’s briefing readout“:
Donald Trump’s decision to offer up a politicized readout of his confidential national security briefings has set off alarm bells in the intelligence community, with some high-profile former officials warning the Republican nominee crossed a “red line.”
During the NBC’s Commander-in-Chief forum on Wednesday night, Trump said “there was one thing that shocked me” from the briefings he received, going on to say that he could tell that government officials were unhappy with President Barack Obama for not following expert advice.
“I was pretty good with the body language,” Trump said.
But former officials with decades of experience in the intelligence community say Trump is bluffing — that trained government officers wouldn’t have betrayed such opinions.
And while experts said Trump didn’t risk national security with his comments, they characterized his move to politicize the briefings as reckless.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” said former CIA Director Michael Hayden, who has over four decades in the intelligence business and led the agency under George W. Bush, adding, “That’s just awful.”
“I mean a candidate used the intelligence professionals who were briefing him in an absolutely nonpolitical setting, he imputed to them views that were politically useful to him in the moment,” he said.
Hayden, who is not endorsing either candidate but has previously warned that Trump could create a “crisis” in the military, said telegraphing such dissatisfaction “just would not have happened.” He added that the briefing would have been conducted by “very senior folks, very sober.”…
When it was announced this summer that Trump would receive intel briefings as is customary for a major party nominee, there was concern raised by Democrats and the Establishment that Trump could not be trusted to keep the information secret.
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The Daily Beast reported in August in an article titled, “Gulp – What Happens If Donald Trump Leaks Classified Info? No One Knows – The loudmouth got his first intelligence briefing this week, leading to fears in D.C. he might slip secrets.”
The news that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump had received his first intelligence briefing Wednesday was met with a shudder inside the national security community.
Many braced for what they fear is inevitable, namely that the often shoot-from-the-hip Trump will say something from those briefings publicly. And yet, in the 64 years that presidential candidates have received such briefings, there is no precedent of a candidate publicly revealing classified information, explained David Priess, who wrote The President’s Book of Secrets: The Untold Story of Intelligence Briefings to America’s Presidents from Kennedy to Obama.
So what happens if Washington’s biggest fear bears true and Trump spills a national secret?
No one knows.
“We have never had someone say something explicit from these briefings,” Priess told The Daily Beast.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which is responsible for presidential candidate briefings, declined to comment or explain when asked by The Daily Beast, only adding to the mystery of what would happen in such a scenario.
Priess said that while there technically is a legal option of criminally charging Trump with revealing classified information, proving such a charge would be difficult. A presidential candidate could claim that he was repeating something he discussed with his advisers, not repeating a classified briefing…
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid called on the briefers to give false information to Trump rather than real intel, reported the Huffington Post in an article titled, “Harry Reid To Intel Community: Give Donald Trump Fake Briefings”
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is advising intelligence officials that if they end up giving GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump classified briefings during the campaign, they should just fake it and make sure not to divulge anything important.
“How would the CIA and the other intelligence agencies brief this guy? How could they do that? I would suggest to the intelligence agencies, if you’re forced to brief this guy, don’t tell him anything, just fake it, because this man is dangerous,” Reid said in an interview with The Huffington Post Wednesday afternoon. “Fake it, pretend you’re doing a briefing, but you can’t give the guy any information.”
“This guy, he’s part of a foreign power,” Reid continued. “We knew he liked Putin before this, but this is quite ridiculous.”…
So who in the Obama administration will be prosecuted for leaking details of Trump’s classified briefing? And will the media and Harry Reid attack the Obama administration for leaking classified information to influence the presidential election?