It would appear that there is a serious discussion in some quarters about whether Donald Trump ought to be given the security briefings regularly afforded to former Presidents.
Much of this discussion has centered on a recent op-ed by Sue Gordon, a former principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence under Trump, entitled “A former president Trump won’t ‘need to know.’ Cut off his intelligence.”
And so a range of commentators on MSNBC and CNN are now asking expert guests whether they think this argument ought to be taken “seriously,” and a number of these guests are saying “yes.” And so there is a serious discussion about whether it would be right to deny Trump privileges normally afforded to former Presidents.
All of those who say “no!” are right.
What is wrong, indeed absurd, is the notion that this warrants even a minute of serious discussion. It does not. Nothing about Trump is “normal,” and his own behavior warrants nothing more than a complete banishment from public life. Period.
The intelligence briefings normally given to former presidents are not legally required; they are customarily given, as a courtesy.
Donald Trump still refuses to concede that he lost the election, and he is the only president in recent history to refuse to welcome his successor to the White House and to attend his successor’s inauguration. Courtesy? The rudest and most nasty person ever to occupy the Oval Office, who has flouted every custom, is entitled to no courtesy.
The “logic” behind the courtesy afforded to former Presidents is simple: they once served the public as President, they possess valued experience and institutional memory, they care about national security, and their advice can be very valuable to a sitting president.
Donald Trump has not served the public while in office, has been both lazy and corrupt, has used the office to serve himself and his family financially, has never even read his own intelligence briefings, and has spent the last four years raging against “the deep state,” against bureaucratic expertise and professionalism, and against the very norms of constitutional democracy. He possesses no experience, insight, wisdom, or institutional memory that could possibly relevant to any president seeking to do his job, a job centered on undoing the damage Trump has caused. The notion that any future president would ever call upon Trump for serious policy advice is simply laughable.
The premise behind the intelligence briefings afforded to former presidents is that that they care about the country and can be trusted to respect the norms and laws governing confidential intelligence. Trump defies this premise. He has given top security clearances to his children against the advice of professionals, has disclosed top secret intelligence in both public and private settings, has deep financial ties to a number of foreign dictators, and has demonstrated that he does not care about the country at all.
There is a further premise behind the customary intelligence briefings: that the former presidents are law-abiding American citizens and not traitors.
Donald Trump incited and perhaps also helped to organize a violent insurrection against the U.S. government.
He was just impeached for doing this—the second time he was impeached for committing “high crimes and misdemeanors” against the U.S. government that he took an oath to protect.
In all likelihood he will soon face a Senate trial, and there is a good chance he will be convicted for his role in the January 6 insurrection. Trump is on public trial for sedition. He is, arguably, a traitor. He is, inarguably, an unhinged, sociopathic, and vengeful individual who acts without normal regard for consequence and without any respect for the law.
Donald Trump came close to destroying our system of government. He has poisoned and damaged it beyond measure. Because of his actions, there are now over 20,000 National Guard troops, some now living in the U.S. Capitol, prepared to surround the Biden-Harris inauguration in order to protect it from the threats made in the name of “MAGA” and of Trump.
Trump has obstructed justice, and shielded himself and his family and his businesses from serious legal scrutiny—for which he deserves to be held civilly and criminally accountable.
He deserves no intelligence briefings.
He deserves no courtesy.
He deserves nothing but scorn.