Take a step back and consider for a moment how the White House handles information in a crisis.
Last Friday Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, and Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, issued a somber warning to leakers, would-be leakers and media outlets about publishing sensitive security information.
“You will not be happy with the result,” Coats said.
President Donald Trump applauded the message.
Four days later, however, Trump retweeted a media report of sensitive security information based on anonymous sources.
On Monday, Fox News reported that U.S. spy satellites detected North Korea moving cruise missiles into patrol boats. Trump retweeted this at 5:50 a.m. Tuesday.
Basically the president was re-leaking by retweeting. In the world of public perception, the retweet effectively confirms the Fox report.
Did he know its content to be true? Trump presumably has access to the best intelligence information the U.S. government can muster.
So one would expect he’d have been briefed on the matter by the purportedly newly disciplined White House staff before the story was posted. Suggesting otherwise would mean he’s not even in the loop.
The president has all the resources needed to give out information he thinks everyone should know. Why do it in the passive form of a retweet?
United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley said the Fox report contains “classified information,” The Hill reported. “I can’t talk about anything that’s classified.”
“And if that’s in the newspaper [sic] that’s a shame. I have no reason to comment on it.”
Hours later, The Washington Post reported something more significant — that “U.S. intelligence officials” had “concluded in a confidential assessment” that North Korea has produced a miniature nuclear warhead that fits inside its missiles.
Now it seems way more important for everyone to know whether the report is true than who disclosed it. So far, the administration has given out statements so contradictory that it is earning the status of an unreliable source.
In later remarks to reporters, Trump opted for heat over light with his instantly-viral "fire and fury" blurt as he held his arms across his chest in a clearly defensive pose.