"Are you allowed to impeach a president for gross incompetence?"
Donald Trump, at the time a private citizen and not the leader of the free world, tweeted that question to the world on June 4, 2014. The president Trump was referencing was his predecessor, Barack Obama, who was visiting with European leaders in Poland and trying to reassure our NATO allies in the face of Russian aggression in Ukraine. It was just one example of Trump suggesting that Obama be removed from office for what he considered an unacceptable handling of our national security.
It is also a question many are asking in light of the news and images coming out of Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort over the weekend.
A quick recap: the president and his wife were hosting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the so-called "Winter White House" in Florida for a weekend of policy discussions (assuming Trump doesn't have to pretend to understand Japanese this time), golf, fancy dinners, and providing photo ops at the wedding of a wealthy patron. While the president and prime minister were enjoying the club's excesses, news was breaking that North Korea had conducted a successful missile test. It was the first national security incident of the Trump administration, and an issue of great importance to him and his guest. So naturally, the president and his entourage withdrew to a secure area to discuss the intelligence being provided and plan their response.
Only that didn't happen. Instead, the group stayed at their patio table in the middle of the crowded dining room (because where else would Trump sit?) and proceeded to have an impromptu national security conference.
One need not look further to see the insanity of this decision than the Facebook page of a resort patron who witnessed the whole ordeal from the comfort of his table. There were Trump and Abe, in the middle of a room full of citizens, pouring over intelligence documents by the light of cell phone flashlights. (Those same flashlights, by the way, can potentially be used as remote video and audio transmitters without the knowledge of the user. In one case documented by CBS News last year, it was revealed that this data has previously wound up in the hands of foreign entities).
If that wasn't ridiculous enough, the same patron also used his Facebook account to share another entertaining encounter at Mar-a-Lago: a photo op with the aide carrying the "nuclear football" briefcase. Talk about a one-of-a-kind souvenir! And all for the low membership cost of $200,000 (up from $100,000 since Trump took office, because if you are going to have blatant pay-for-play access to the president, you'd better be sure the price is respectable)!
This is not the first time in his young administration that Mr. Trump has taken a lackadaisical approach to protecting confidential information. News broke a few days after the inauguration that the president was still using his old Android phone (and it is old; the phone is of a model that no longer gets security updates) instead of switching to a new, secure device. And then there was the photo showing a classified lockbag, with the key still in it, sitting unattended on the Resolute desk while the president was hosting numerous guests (most of whom almost certainly did not have clearance to access those documents) in the Oval Office. And who can forget the Observer article from this past weekend that quoted a senior Pentagon official as saying that, "since January 20, we've assumed that the Kremlin has ears in the [Situation Room]."
Donald Trump spent the better part of the last two years blasting Hillary Clinton for potentially keeping classified documents on a private e-mail server. Her disregard for protocol as it pertained to classified information was the well to which he returned countless times during the campaign, leading to "Lock Her Up!" arguably surpassing "Make America Great Again" as the main mantra of Trump 2016. And yet, in one night, the president showed more disregard for the sensitive nature of classified intelligence than Ms. Clinton did during her entire tenure at the State Department.
At least Trump's Mar-a-Lago guests got an exciting evening out of it.