By Jon Dougherty
(TNS) Earlier this week, President Donald Trump commented in response to claims from Democrats that they weren’t fully briefed about his strike against Qassem Soleimani because he was concerned information about the operation would be leaked.
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While addressing a campaign rally in Toledo, Ohio, the president said a full briefing before the operation to Congress would have resulted in some Democrats leaking details about it to the media, just to spite him.
“You should come in and tell us so that we can call up the fake news that’s back there and we can leak it,” he said. “That’s a lot of corruption back there, folks.”
He wasn’t alone in expressing that very alarming view.
“To protect sources and methods, we’re simply not able to share with every member of the House and Senate the intelligence that supported the president’s decision to take out Qassem Soleimani,” Vice President Mike Pence told Fox News. “I can assure your viewers that there was a threat of an imminent attack.”
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) also said the administration had to be careful with the information it passed along to Congress on account of concerns over Democrat leaks.
“There were questions asked for specific information and the people on the dais simply did everything they could to get around providing the specific information, which allowed the inference that they had reservations about sharing that classified information with Congress in that kind of setting — which in turn leads to the inference that they had a reasonable amount of distrust as to whether shared classified information would in turn be shared by members of Congress with the news media or our enemies,” he said.
Asked to respond to the VP’s statement, Brooks noted, “That’s very consistent with the concern that Congress cannot be trusted to keep classified information classified.”
The Alabama Republican also went on to name names.
“[It’s] also consistent with that concern is what you just got done seeing with Adam Schiff’s Intelligence Committee during the impeachment proceedings wherein that information that was collected in a SCIF was invariably leaked to the news media,” Brooks continued.
“So if you just had that experience where members of Congress are quite clearly leaking information that was collected in a SCIF environment, how can you trust them not to leak classified information regarding Iran that could lead to the deaths of our intelligence sources, or empower terrorist organizations to avoid American retribution for the killing that they have done?” he asked.
Adam Schiff’s name has come up before — and quite often — as being a source of leaks to the media. Former Rep. Trey Gowdy has called him out for it. So has the president and his former press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. So has Trump assistant Dan Scavino.
So everyone knows this schmoe is a leaker. Now, in the past, leaking information that is politically damaging, as underhanded as it is, doesn’t rise to the level of a punishable crime.
But leaking classified information certainly would. And what’s more, members of Congress can be (and should be) charged by the Justice Department if they are found to have leaked highly classified information such as the kind that would lead to the targeted killing of a bona fide enemy of the state — Soleimani.
Under the Constitution, members of Congress can be charged and convicted of certain crimes. Article I, Section 6 reads:
The Senators and Representatives shall receive a compensation for their services, to be ascertained by law, and paid out of the treasury of the United States. They shall in all cases, except treason, felony and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other place.
Leaking classified information is a felony. As FindLaw notes:
Whether we agree that keeping select information “secret,” is really best for the American people or not, the truth is that unauthorized disclosure of classified information in the United States is a crime under the Espionage Act of 1917. Those who are found in violation of this crime against the government face broad and wide-ranging criminal sanctions. …
This law prohibits the knowing and willful transmittal of specified classified information to an unauthorized person, but it pertains only to information relating to the communications intelligence systems and activities of the United States. This means a person is in violation of the law if they knowingly and willfully perform any of the following acts involving confidential information:
- communicate, furnish, transmit, or otherwise make it available to an unauthorized person; or
- publish it; or
- use it in a way that’s either (1) prejudicial to the safety or interest of the U.S., or (2) for the benefit of any foreign government to the detriment of the U.S.
The penalty for this crime is up to 10 years in prison, a large fine, or both.
Now, it seems fairly cut-and-dried to us: If any classified information is leaked to “unauthorized persons” in the media or elsewhere, not only is that a felony punishable under the Constitution, but also by statute.
We have a former Republican congressman, Duncan Hunter of California, who had to resign from his this week after being convicted for illegally spending campaign funds.
Now, that’s a crime, for sure, and we’re not excusing it. But come on…it certainly doesn’t rise to the felonious level of leaking classified information to an ‘unauthorized person’ that results in the endangerment of our country.
Democrats’ disdain for President Trump and their offense at his occupation of the White House is not political cover and does not excuse them from the ‘high crime’ of leaking classified information. If that happens after any briefing the administration provides Congress, the offense should be investigated and, if a suspect is found, he/she should be arrested and, hopefully, convicted.
And the fact is, the law and the Constitution give the administration the power to do it.
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