The news that Donald Trump reportedly shared sensitive classified information with Russian officials during an Oval Office meeting last week produced four major reactions.
There were some who refused to believe the Washington Post scoop, even though the White House still has not specifically denied that the president shared classified info, despite carefully parsed denunciations of the story, and despite confirmation by multiple outlets. There were others who dismissed the scoop, pointing out that Trump has the authority to unilaterally declassify information—an argument that is true as far as it goes, but ignores the real-world of implications of sharing such info on relations with allies, to say nothing of its hypocrisy.
Among those who treated the news as a dangerous development, there was a different split. For people who are convinced that Trump is part of a grand conspiracy with Russia to interfere with American politics, or those who believe that might be true, his decision to share such top-secret information with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador to the U.S. offered further validation of their suspicions.
But in their rush to defend Trump from these dark intimations, some of his defenders offered an account of his actions that may be even more disturbing. Regardless of whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia—a question the FBI and others are investigating—early indications were that Trump’s disclosure to the Russians was not a calculated choice but rather an unintentional error. A president who has little understanding of what is classified or why it matters, blurting privileged information willy-nilly, is a dangerous prospect.