6. Trump’s counterparts, friend and foe alike, have surely realized by now that any information they put in the president's head could come out of his mouth at the most inopportune time. In recent weeks, it became clear that the president is so impressionable that he will shift long-held views on a dime (like his about-face on NATO after seeing Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg) or regurgitate their self-serving claims (like “learning” from President Xi Jinping about China’s limited influence over North Korea ). Now our allies also have to worry that their most sensitive information could be shared with an adversary. Hard to imagine they will be as willing to share.
One other thing to keep in mind: Saying something like this to the Russians was bad; imagine if it had been on live television (which seems like only a matter of time).
7. Trump’s defenders may (rightly) claim that, especially for a new government official exposed to reams of unfamiliar information, keeping track of what is or is not classified is not always easy. And given genuine over-classification in the executive branch, it is not always self-evident what falls on each side of the line. Inadvertent are an occupational hazard—every official has had one of those heart-stopping moments when he or she, or a colleague, or a boss makes a comment they probably shouldn’t have.
That said, "code word" information Trump is alleged to have discussed is the most sensitive category that exists—the most vulnerable points of access to foreign information or acts our own government conducts. The cover paper on such reports bears the neon hues of a hazmat barrel and often comes wrapped in double layers of thick brown paper and heavy tape. It is inconceivable that anyone with access to such information would think it could be shared.
8. Mercifully, no administration official has yet complained that the real story here is not Trump’s disclosures but those made by the "deep state" to tarnish the president (though that is the line several right-wing outlets are taking). That said, while no one should envy the challenge his communications team faces, the statements coming from Team Trump so far are incredibly misleading. McMaster, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Deputy National Security Advisor Dina Powell, are denying things the president is not alleged to have disclosed (military operations, intelligence sources and methods), while remaining silent on the core allegation that he disclosed code-word information and they had to launch a massive damage control operation in response.
9. Taking a step back, it is increasingly clear that Trump’s wrecking ball approach to the traditional norms of the presidency, praised as “disruptive” by his supporters, is exposing the limitations of a political system ill-equipped to handle someone operating so recklessly. There may be few legal restrictions on the president related to, for example, disclosing classified information, or ethical breaches, or interfering with a law enforcement investigation into the campaign that brought him to power, but there has always been a basic presumption that a president would operate within certain bounds of good faith.