The possibility that Donald Trump may have severely damaged U.S. security by revealing U.S. classified information to hostile foreign governments remains a concern among those of us who have served as government employees working with classified material. Because our intelligence and other classified operations depend on secrecy for their success, ordinary citizens may never know what losses we suffered.
Trump’s affection for the Russians and Vladimir Putin started before his election in 2016. The Russians, anxious to exploit his partiality, went out of their way to bolster his election and made no secret of their fondness for him. Trump has continued to favor the Russians and recently described Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as “genius” and “savvy”—citing the invasion, Trump said “Oh, that’s wonderful.”
We know that in May 2017 Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador. U.S. officials said that Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State. The data Trump gave the Russians was reported to have been codeword, one of the highest levels of classification. Its source was reported to be another country who had not given us permission to share the secret information with a third nation.
We also know that Trump illegally moved classified documents to his residence in Florida when he left the White House after his defeat in 2020. The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration reported to Congress that it had recovered 15 boxes of classified material.
Trump makes no secret of his disdain for the law and his willingness to endanger U.S. security. We’ll never know the extent of harm done because the government depends on secrecy to protect its sources and methods. And Trump goes unpunished. Had I, as an ordinary government employee, given classified information to the Russians or stolen 15 boxes of classified documents, I would have been arrested, tried, convicted, and imprisoned.
Why does the U.S. government not arrest Trump?