- Some people are very concerned that damaging information was leaked about President Donald Trump’s congratulatory call to Vladimir Putin.
- The leaks are actually a good thing for US interests.
- We should want to preserve the situation where Trump lacks normal executive control over US-Russia relations.
There’s an emerging Republican line on President Donald Trump’s choice to override briefing advice from his national security staff during the call in which he congratulated Vladimir Putin on his reelection as president of Russia.
“I don’t agree with congratulating #Putin but bigger outrage is this leak that could only come from someone in @POTUS inner circle,” Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida tweeted. “If you don’t like President resign, but this ongoing pattern of duplicity holds potential for serious damage to the nation.”
Rubio is wrong. The leak of this internal White House communication is not the “bigger outrage.”
It’s a good thing.
The president’s administration has taken a tough line on Russia in various ways, especially when Trump’s direct involvement hasn’t been required. But his direct actions have undermined his administration’s tough stances – for example, when he has downplayed Russian actions to interfere in foreign elections, or this week when he congratulated Putin on winning an election that was not free or fair.
Someone in the White House presumably leaked this information in an effort to undermine the president’s (often hapless) efforts to turn US policy in a pro-Russia direction.
This is a good thing for American interests.
A discreet, internal deliberation process, in which staff can advise the president without their advice becoming public, is indeed an important part of a well-functioning White House that achieves its goals. So is a policy process in which executive-branch officials seek to execute the president’s vision. But since the president’s goals in relations with Russia are nefarious, a breakdown of that process with regard to US-Russia relations is good.
We should want to preserve the situation where Trump lacks normal executive control over US-Russia relations.
I understand the concern that these leaks set a bad precedent, as does the broader phenomenon of having a president not truly in full command of his executive powers.
The best way to avoid the setting of bad precedents would have been not to elect this incompetent, amoral, and unpatriotic man to the presidency. But here we are, in part because people like Rubio acquiesced to supporting his campaign for the presidency. So if Liddle Marco wants to cast blame for this situation, he should start with himself.
I am hopeful that the precedents being set in the Trump administration will not be too precedential. A normal president prevents White House leaks by commanding the respect and support of his staff. He commands his executive powers because he is able to build out an administration full of people who trust him to execute.
The leaks and the undermining in Trump’s West Wing are more a symptom of his inability to lead his administration than a cause. When we have a normal president again, this situation will hopefully not persist.
But until then, we shouldn’t want the level of White House efficacy and unity we’d want for a normal president of either party. Certain kinds of dysfunction, such as this leak, are welcome.