White House Staff Join Trump’s Pattern of Lie, Distract and Blame

Last week Donald Trump did something that was monumentally stupid. In a meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister that was already rife with controversy, he leaked highly classified intelligence that had been obtained from an Israeli source inside ISIS. That was followed up by his national security team first saying that the reporting on this story was false, followed by claims that leaking the information was “wholly appropriate.”

Of all the bombshells released about the administration this week, that one seems to have posed the biggest challenge to the president’s fantasy of always being dominant and successful. Now, according to Jenna McLaughlin, Trump has his team working on a way to retaliate.

President Donald Trump’s inner circle is war-gaming how best to respond to the Washington Post’s bombshell report that he shared classified intelligence with the Russians about an Islamic State plot, sensitive information reportedly passed to the United States by Israel.

One option under consideration? Attack former President Barack Obama and his administration over their handling of sensitive data, in particular through one information-sharing program regarding cybersecurity threats.

According to a source with knowledge of a White House meeting that took place Wednesday morning, Trump’s team is considering launching an investigation into a Department of Homeland Security program that shares information on cyberattacks in an effort to coordinate globally on countering digital threats, insinuating that it inappropriately opened up streams of sensitive data to Russia and other nonallies. Another option under consideration is placing a story in the media about the program, similarly accusing it of sharing sensitive information.

The program in question is called Automated Indicator Sharing and McLaughlin goes on to describe it in more detail as well as provide quotes from experts on what a ridiculous claim this would be. A very wise person obviously leaked this story and that might be enough to send Trump’s team looking elsewhere for material.

But what I found interesting is that the whole idea behind this search repeats the pattern we’ve seen over and over again from Trump when his delusions about himself are threatened: lie, distract and blame.

His two favorite targets are the ones that are usually hauled out at moments like this, Hillary Clinton and/or Barack Obama. For example, when Trump was forced to finally admit that Obama was a U.S. citizen, he blamed Clinton for starting the whole birtherism nonsense—which was a lie. And when the president became furious that AG Sessions had been forced to recuse himself from the Trump/Russia probe, he accused Obama of wiretapping him, another lie.

Now that Trump stepped in it by revealing classified Israeli intelligence to the Russians, he is desperate to find something on Obama to use in an attempt to lie, distract and blame. Perhaps we can give him some credit for actually having his team look for an example rather than simply tweet out an accusation, which has been his usual response. But what this indicates is that he has a cadre of willing accomplices who met this week to come up with something for him to use. The president now seems to have weaponized his staff as part of this pattern. That’s why I expect we’ll be seeing a lot more of it in the future.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.