On Tuesday morning, President Trump took to Twitter to address Monday evening’s reports that he had disclosed highly classified information to the Russian ambassador and foreign minister last week.
Trump’s tweets are vague enough that they don’t unambiguously contradict the story trotted out by the administration Monday night that Trump had discussed “common” efforts and threats and hadn’t disclosed the actual intelligence sources and methods. At the same time, the first tweet is the potentially incriminating one of the two. Presumably Trump wouldn’t need to “share” information already held in common, and his assertion of his “right” to do so certainly makes it sound like he gave them classified information that they would not otherwise have had access to. Presidents do have the broad authority to share American intelligence as they wish. They are not supposed to share classified information provided by allies without permission, as the Washington Post and others reported that Trump did.
Still, Trump’s tweets don’t constitute a straightforward admission. Monday night’s denials from National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell weren’t straightforward either. Contrary to their insinuations, the Post and other outlets never reported that Trump gave away a source. They reported that what he did say to the Russians could greatly aid in the discovery of one. But the obfuscation here has likely already worked with one intended audience. Right-wing outlets have derided reporting on this as fake news and are insisting that the word of the administration should be taken over the word of anonymous sources. Now it’s up to Sean Spicer, who will brief the press this afternoon, not to muck up the messaging.
Oh, by the way. There was one other Trump tweet, in line with previous messaging after other damaging press reports.