Leaking the transcript of a presidential call to a foreign leader is unprecedented, shocking, and dangerous. It is vitally important that a president be able to speak confidentially—and perhaps even more important that foreign leaders understand that they can reply in confidence.
Thursday’s leak to The Washington Post of President Trump’s calls with the president of Mexico and the prime minister of Australia will reverberate around the world. No leader will again speak candidly on the phone to Washington, D.C.—at least for the duration of this presidency, and perhaps for longer. If these calls can be leaked, any call can be leaked—and no leader dare say anything to the president of the United States that he or she would not wish to read in the news at home.
In March, I warned about the risk of judicial overreach:
In response to the danger posed by Trump, other American power holders will be tempted to jettison their historic role too, and use any tool at hand—no matter how doubtfully legitimate—to stop him. Those alternative power holders may even ultimately win. But in winning, they may discover themselves in the same tragic position as that Vietnam-era army officer who supposedly said: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.”
The risk of national-security establishment overreach looms even larger. The temptation is obvious: Senior national-security professionals regard Trump as something between (at best) a reckless incompetent doofus and (at worst) an outright Russian espionage asset. The fear that a Russian mole has burrowed into the Oval Office may justify, to some, the most extreme actions against that suspected mole.