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First, this is not a question of “leaking classified information” or breaking a criminal law.
Let’s dispense with one easy rabbit hole that a lot of people are likely to go down this evening: the President did not “leak” classified information in violation of law. He is allowed to do what he did.
Second, this is not a garden variety breach, and outrage over it is not partisan hypocrisy about protecting classified information.
Third, it is important to understand the nature of sources and methods information in order to fully understand the gravity of the breach.
Fourth, it really matters why Trump disclosed this information to Russian visitors.
Fifth, this may well be a violation of the President’s oath of office.
Sixth, it matters hugely, at least from an atmospheric point of view, that the people in the room were Russian and one of them was Sergey Kislyak of all people.
Take a step back and remember where we stand on L’Affaire Russe.
It’s particularly striking that among the Russian officials with whom Trump may have discussed classified information is none other than Kislyak, who has a habit of holding inopportune meetings with high-ranking members of the Trump team.
Seventh, Trump’s screw-up with the Russians in the Oval Office raises the stakes for whether he records conversations there
The speculation continued through today, when Sean Spicer studiously declined to address whether any such recording system exists. If such a recording system does exist, the conversations recorded could go a long way towards answering the mysteries above regarding why the President gave this information to the Russians, and whether he violated his oath or some other law in the process. We thus expect the incident with the Russians to put even more pressure on the White House to answer the question whether the recording system exists.
Eighth, this episode raises the stakes on the nomination of the FBI Director to replace Comey.
Finally, Trump’s alleged screw-up with the Russians reveals yet again what we have learned many times in the last four months: The successful operation of our government assumes a minimally competent Chief Executive that we now lack.
Everyone else in the Executive Branch can be disciplined or fired or worse when they screw up by, say, revealing classified information or lying about some important public policy issue. But the President cannot be fired; we are stuck with him for 3-1/2 more years unless he is impeached, which remains a long-shot.
Bottom line: It matters who we have running the most powerful institution in the world.