Last week, the British intelligence agency GCHQ took the rare step of debunking as “utterly ridiculous” the Trump administration’s insinuation that Britain spied on Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign. On Monday, FBI Director James B. Comey testified plainly that “I have no information that supports” President Trump’s accusations that his predecessor ordered the “wires tapped” at Trump Tower. These false statements from the White House are part of a disturbing pattern of behavior that poses real and potentially profound dangers to U.S. national security.
The foundation of the United States’ unrivaled global leadership rests only in part on our military might, the strength of our economy and the power of our ideals. It is also grounded in the perception that the United States is steady, rational and fact-based. To lead effectively, the United States must maintain respect and trust. So, when a White House deliberately dissembles and serially contorts the facts, its actions pose a serious risk to America’s global leadership, among friends and adversaries alike.
First, U.S. power is frequently a function of our ability to rally other countries to join our cause. President George H.W. Bush famously gathered some 30 countries to expel Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in 1991. President George W. Bush enlisted NATO and other countries to fight al-Qaeda in Afghanistan after 9/11. President Barack Obama built broad coalitions to combat the Islamic State; impose sanctions on Iran after the discovery of a secret nuclear facility at Fordow; punish Russia for its actions in Ukraine; conclude the Paris climate agreement; and halt the Ebola epidemic.