In a phone call with the President of the Philippines, also in 2017, Trump revealed that the US had positioned submarines near North Korea. This information was so accurate before that it even took some in the White House by surprise.
“I built a nuclear power plant – a weapon system that nobody in this country had before,” Trump said, according to a tapping of the conversation on December 5, 2019, before going on to say, “We have things that Putin and Xi have never had heard of it. There is nobody. What we have is incredible. “
Among the ranks of information Trump has revealed that has caused concern across the national security apparatus, this was not exactly the most shocking revelation. While some Democrats said the disclosure could harm national security, few within the government seemed concerned about what amounted to yet another charge by a president known for divulging state secrets.
Woodward writes that he later confirmed with several anonymous US officials that a new weapon system had been developed and that they were “surprised” that Trump had revealed it.
But the remark was revealing nonetheless because it showed Trump’s fondness for sometimes using secret government information to impress his interlocutors and convey his stature.
Woodward, one of America’s best-known newspaper journalists, spoke to Trump 18 times for the book in conversations that Trump’s oldest advisors often didn’t know about. Convinced that he could create a positive account, the President gave Woodward his personal cell phone number and called him often at night from the White House residence.
Trump seemed to believe that the more access he gave Woodward, the better the book would make him look. However, many of his conversations also seemed designed to impress the seasoned journalist with his inside knowledge and access to top-secret information – including his encounters with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
When asked about the nuclear weapons system after excerpts from the book appeared Wednesday, government officials said they were not sure what Trump was referring to, but did not express much concern that its disclosure would jeopardize American security.
“Super Duper” rocket drama
Hours after Trump spoke, a Pentagon spokesman tweeted the Department of Defense, “is working on developing a range of hypersonic missiles to counter our adversaries.”
Another spokesperson said, “We will not discuss the capabilities of systems that we may or may not have under development.”
In March, the Pentagon announced that it successfully tested “a hypersonic slip body,” a key component of a hypersonic missile, in a flight experiment in March Question of the Minutes. “
The Trump administration began discussing a nuclear weapons system in 2018, which is a low-yielding variant of more traditional nuclear warheads.
Trump previously bragged about modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal and has included a significant increase in funding for that effort in his latest budget proposal.
The President, Vice-President, and some agency directors appointed by the President have extensive powers to classify or release information.
But Trump’s secret information revelations run the risk of further damaging his already strained relationship with U.S. intelligence. He openly questioned the competence of intelligence officials and questioned their highly trustworthy assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
Such disclosures can also compromise Trump’s credibility to partners around the world who share sensitive information with the US, provided that it remains confidential.
It is not always private for Trump to reveal sensitive or classified information. His Twitter feed was also a source of significant disclosures.
US officials said the country did not develop a nuclear-powered system at the time.
“The United States of America was not involved in the catastrophic accident during the final preparations for the launch of the Safir SLV at the Semnan launch site in Iran,” Trump wrote, adding a sarcastic approval. “I wish Iran all the best and good luck in discovering what happened at the first location.”
Oval Office Injury
Trump at the time was defending his right to share “facts related to terrorism” and aviation safety with Russia, saying in two tweets that he had “an absolute right” as President to do so.
A U.S. official said Trump boasted about his access to classified information during the meeting. Extract from an official record of the meeting later revealed that Trump bragged to them, “I get great information. I get great information from people every day,” he said.
The President is also known to speak to several world leaders on his personal cell phone. This is an unusual approach that is against diplomatic protocol and raises concerns about the security and secrecy of the US commandant in the chief’s communications.
According to government officials, Trump distributed his number to the leaders of Canada, France and Mexico and spoke to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in his cell. Another senior administration official said Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan “speak all the time,” often outside of the standard White House protocol.
When asked if Trump could speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin or other world leaders in his cell, a former senior White House official said: “We never knew who he was talking to when he was in the residence. “
“This has been our main concern,” added this official. “Not only were calls being made on insecure lines, the president’s filter was flawed, so there was no telling what he was going to say and to whom.”
This person said the president’s top intelligence and national security advisers never seriously thought about withholding confidential information from the president for fear of revealing it: “There are people who are likely to joke about it, but at the end of the day he is the president and he’s the one in charge. “
“The President can release anything.”
On Capitol Hill, Democrats said the gun program disclosure was one of the most significant in Woodward’s book.
“There is so much character-centric reporting. What matters is how it affects our security or leads him to make really bad political decisions,” said Senator Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat.
But Republicans largely downplayed Trump’s disclosure, arguing that either they didn’t see the comments or nothing the president revealed had threatened national security.
One member, acting chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Marco Rubio, said he was unsure whether such disclosures showed “good judgment”, despite saying Trump was technically allowed to disclose any program he wanted.
Rubio told reporters that “the president can set everything free.”
For many GOP members, the President’s in-depth interviews with Woodward and the ongoing aftermath of it follow a familiar pattern. The president abandons traditional Republican orthodoxy, throws the script away, and yet GOP voters and their elected members avoid criticizing the president for fear that he will do little more than reprimand a president earn that the republican base won’t give up anytime soon.
A Republican senator, who spoke anonymously about the president’s disclosure, said Trump liked to “talk about our weapons systems in a way that most presidents would not, but even with that, I don’t think he ever said anything.” our opponents wouldn’t. ” I already knew. “
“For him to say we have these things, I wouldn’t say that, I don’t want a member of the Intel committee to say it, but I don’t think from an Intel perspective, he says everything our opponents don’t know said the Senator.
When asked why the president did it, the member said: “I cannot analyze why the president does what he does.
CNN’s Jeremy Herb, Ryan Browne and Jamie Gangel contributed to this report.