Fact Check: Why the double standard, Trump? You crucified Hillary and others for mishandling classified information

by Ezinne Ajoku

On the 10th of May, President of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump, hosted the Russian ambassador, Sergey V. Lavrov, and the Russian foreign minister, Sergey I. Kislyak, at the White House. This meeting took place a day after Trump fired the FBI Director, James Comey.

Initially, the conversation hovered around how insensitive the timing was, considering that Comey was actually investigating what ties Trump’s campaign team had to the Russians.

Thereafter, it was reported that Trump had disclosed classified intelligence from one of America’s allies -Israel- to Russia without Israel’s permission. A situation that bolstered Al Green and other democrats to push for Trump’s impeachment.
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According to officials, the intelligence disclosed was about an Islamic State plot.

However, Israel and Russia are not allies. And Israel closely guards its own secrets. America and Russia are not allies either, although Trump has been steadily working towards that. Besides a healthy fear America has of Russia’s long-term threat to American interests, the two countries stand on opposite sides of the war in Syria.

Howbeit, Trump has said that both countries want to stop “the killing — the horrible, horrible killing in Syria as soon as possible and everybody is working toward that end.”

The White House said in a later statement that Trump “emphasised the need to work together to end the conflict in Syria, in particular, underscoring the need for Russia to rein in the Assad regime, Iran, and Iranian proxies.”

In a series of tweets defending his decision to share that piece of intelligence with Russia, Trump said:

But according to the New York Times, America’s “ally has repeatedly warned American officials that it would cut off access to such sensitive information if it were shared too widely. In this case, the fear is that Russia will be able to determine exactly how the information was collected and could disrupt the ally’s espionage efforts.”

Trump’s disclosure cannot be said to be illegal because as president, he has the power to declassify anything. Still, sharing such sensitive information without the express approval of their ally constitutes “major breach of espionage etiquette, and could jeopardise a crucial intelligence-sharing relationship.” It also contradicts Trump’s stance on leaks through the years.’

Here’s a review.

1 Obama

In 2012, during Barack Obama’s presidency, there were a series of leaks to the American media which enumerated American cyberattacks against Iran’s nuclear program and the foiling of a plot by Al Qaeda to bomb an airplane. The Attorney General, Eric H. Holder Jr. at the time, appointed two special prosecutors to investigate these leaks. Trump did not hold back his harsh criticism of Obama’s administration and the Justice department.

2. Edward Snowden

Between 2013-2014, Americans were bombarded with revelations of America’s surveillance programs. These leaks came from a former CIA worker and contractor at the National Security Agency, the infamous Edward Snowden. Trump criticised Snowden severely in numerous interviews and Twitter posts.

The only time Trump gave Snowden a pass was when he asked him to leak Obama’s birth records.

By 2014, Trump returned to calling Snowden a “traitor,” “fraud” and “spy” who should return to the United States and “face justice.

3. Hillary Clinton

The year was 2016. The month was January. The US State Department had just revealed that Clinton had used a private email server to store highly classified information. This was the arrow Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump needed to strike at Hillary and destabilise her voter support, and strike he did with damaging efficiency.

On Twitter, at campaign rallies, Trump did not miss a moment to castigate Hillary Clinton for ‘her emails’, even going as far as leading change of “lock her up”.

“Hillary’s private email scandal, which put our classified information in the reach of our enemies, disqualifies her from the presidency,” he said at a campaign rally in September 2016.

March 2, 2016, Super Tuesday Victory Speech
“What she did is a criminal act. If she’s allowed to run I would be very, very surprised.”

July 11, 2016, campaign speech
“This is not just extreme carelessness with classified material, which is still totally disqualifying. This is calculated, deliberate, premeditated misconduct.”

July 21, 2016, campaign speech
“The secretary of state was extremely careless and negligent in handling our classified secrets.”

4. Chelsea Manning

A few days after he took office, Trump condemned Chelsea Manning, the former Army private who sent government documents to WikiLeaks and whose sentence was commuted by Obama, New York Times reports.

PS: (Mr. Trump’s message was also not accurate. Ms. Manning wrote a column expressing disappointment with Mr. Obama, but she did not call him a weak leader.)

5. WikiLeaks

After WikiLeaks released a trove of classified documents on C.I.A. spying tools, Sean Spicer, Mr. Trump’s press secretary, said that the president had “grave concern” about the leak.

“There’s a reason that we have classification levels, and that’s to protect our country and our people. And that’s something that we have to maintain, regardless of how it’s thought out,” Spicer said.

The only time Trump strayed away from the norm was his rugged defence of David H. Petraeus, a former C.I.A director and decorated four-star general who provided classified intelligence to his mistress, Paula Broadwell. When the affair was first uncovered in 2012, both parties denied sharing classified intel, even though the information had been found on her computer.

Trump defended the General robustly.

Trump characterised Petraeus as “beyond reproach.”

Mr Petraeus gave his first public speech in March 2013. But his apology was dismissed by Mr. Trump as unnecessary.

In 2015, when the F.B.I. and the Justice Department confirmed that Petraeus had indeed provided classified information to his mistress, to which  Petraeus pleaded guilty, Trump downplayed Petraeus’ actions.

“General Petraeus on far less important documents was, he was destroyed,” he said in an August 2015 interview on Fox News. “It’s really General Petraeus on steroids. At some point, I would imagine something has to happen.”

As president, Trump has maintained his attitude toward Mr. Petraeus.

It’s a curious stance seeing as Petraeus intentionally gave away sensitive information compared to Clinton who didn’t. Perhaps Trump is more forgiving when it comes to matters of the heart and since he’s trying to build a relationship with Russia, all’s fair in love?

Break it down for us, Mr President, why the goalpost shifting?

[Read also]: “The Thread: Scathing responses follow Trump’s “greatest witch hunt ever” accusation”

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