Eight senior security officials tell Reuters: We're worried about giving Trump classified briefings

We’re all thinking the same thing but an RNC spokesman was the first to get to say it: Of the two major-party nominees this year, it ain’t Trump who mishandled classified information.

Even so, the pros — or some pros — are allegedly more concerned about him than Hillary, partly because of his penchant for stream-of-consciousness rambling and partly because, as Dem Rep Adam Schiff said, Trump may not know enough foreign policy to know what he’s not supposed to disclose. No one thinks he’s going to deliberately spill secrets, but one that’s spilled accidentally is spilled nonetheless.

Eight senior security officials told Reuters they had concerns over briefing Trump, whose brash, unpredictable campaign style has been a feature of his rise as an insurgent candidate. Despite their worries, the officials said the “Top Secret” briefing to each candidate would not deviate from the usual format to avoid any appearance of bias…

“People are very nervous,” said one senior U.S. security official.

Intelligence and other security and foreign policy officials are also trying to determine “who on (Trump’s) team are trustworthy, the official added. “We’ve never had a situation like this before. Ever.”…

[Adam] Schiff said one consequence of intelligence agencies’ worries about Trump’s reputation as a loose cannon could be that briefers circumscribe some of the information they provide to Trump and Hillary Clinton, his prospective Democratic opponent.

Natsec officials insist that Trump and Clinton will be given the same briefings to avoid accusations of partisan bias, but er, how would anyone know? It’s not like the two will compare notes. The obvious move, as I said before when the thought of Clinton and Trump gaining access to sensitive information first began horrifying America, is to cancel the tradition of pre-election briefings for major-party nominees and then catch up with more frequent briefings for the president-elect starting in November. Failing that, do what Schiff recommends and give them bare-bones briefings. Hillary has her own sources for intelligence (right, Sid?) and Trump, being Trump, probably looks forward to the briefing more for its prestige than for the substance of it. Imagine: Soon he’ll have access to more privileged national security information than “Lyin’ Ted” and “Little Marco” do. Well, no, probably not more than Little Marco: Rubio gets his own sensitive briefings as a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the Select Committee on Intelligence. In fact, according to other intel sources who spoke to Reuters, the briefing for party nominees doesn’t give them many details. “If he reads the papers every day,” said one source of Trump, “he won’t hear much that will surprise him.” It’d be easy to tweak a briefing that’s already pretty general to make it even more harmlessly general. The significance of this story isn’t that a catastrophic breach of national security will happen during one of Trump rallies but rather that intel pros are already nervously side-eyeing each other at the thought of him as leader of the free world.

For that reason, if no other, I think Trump will be smart and stay far away from alluding to anything he heard in the briefings while on the trail this fall. There’s too much risk to him in doing so. If he spilled some secret, even a minor one, it would confirm the suspicions inside the IC and out that he’s not responsible enough to wield awesome power, which is already the crux of the Clinton argument against him. It could lose him the election. And even if it didn’t, it’d lose him the respect of intelligence pros whose loyalty he’ll need as president. (Imagine what they must think of Hillary at this point.) That’s a big open question about a Trump presidency: How would he approach the professional civil servants working under him? Would he be imperious or would it be a more modest “help me learn” thing? Modesty, at least at first, is the better strategy in order to build trust but modesty isn’t one of Trump’s core virtues.

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Jazz Shaw 1:01 PM on December 09, 2022