NBC’s Matt Lauer laid the trap for Republican Donald Trump. The TV morning host knows that politicians cannot reveal what they hear in their classified briefings and said so. There has been a long tradition of briefing candidates on classified information on global trouble spots.
Lauer was congenial with the Republican candidate as he set the hook:
‘Was there anything you learned, anything that shocked or alarmed him during a pair of briefings designed to provide an overview of security issues confronting the United States?’
Trump fell right into the trap. Since the briefings are supposed to be secret, surely no one would catch the GOP’s man in this lie. Wrong. From that point on, Lauer totally dropped the ball. He acted more like he wanted to be friends with Trump than a journalist. Conversely, he pressed Clinton right up against the wall.
The real estate mogul said this about the intelligence briefings,
‘There was one thing that shocked me.’
Then, he went into how his briefers said that President Obama and Clinton ignored their “expertise and recommendations.” Then Trump continued saying:
‘I am Pretty good with the body language. I could tell, they were not happy. Our leaders did not follow what [the intelligence experts] were recommending.’
Former high-ranking CIA (Central Ingelligence Agency) analyst Paul Pillar said:
‘Those selected for this task would have been the most professional of an elite corps of intelligence officers. One of the last things they would do is express either verbally or through body language preferences.
‘There will be other opportunities to be abusive — the higher priority now is to cast a negative light on his opponent . . . but part of the professionalism is to keep that thoroughly private.’
Former deputy CIA director and Clinton supporter Michael Morell said this about Trump’s comments,
‘[they] show that he’s got zero understanding of how intelligence works.’
Former U.S. intelligence officials said that briefers expressing a personal opinion about either Clinton or the president would be,
‘An almost inconceivable violation of training and tradition.’
They also said that the briefers Trump accused of this serious breach of conduct may be:
‘Quietly muttering and shaking their heads about at least one of the presidential candidates.’
Part of the CIA’s and other similar agencies’ training requires them to remain impartial, especially regarding U.S. politics. Officials could not remember a presidential candidate ever remarking on a classified briefing, let alone exploiting it for political gain.
A former CIA officer who briefed senior George W. Bush administration members daily, David Priess said:
‘This is unprecedented. We’ve had other presidential candidates mention that they got a briefing and talk in platitudes about it. We’ve never had somebody talk about what happened in a session.’
During his first briefing, Trump adviser and sitting New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and retired U.S. Army Gen. Michael Flynn joined him. At one point, Christie had to let Flynn know he should back off of his interruptions and negative comments.
A spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the office that oversees the two candidates’ briefings, declined to comment.
It isn’t clear whether Trump realized he had insulted the intelligence officials. But since he went on to criticize the sitting military generals, Trump just may not care.