Security experts are raising concerns about the safety of state secrets accessible to Donald Trump, particularly as massive debts on his businesses come due.
Trump already has access to secrets that could be devastating to the U.S. if they were leaked or sold. In addition, presidents typically continue to be briefed on national security in certain circumstances even after they leave office, NBC News reports.
Trump has proven to be dangerously reckless with intelligence and confoundingly supportive of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But classified information could also now represent a “profit center” to the heavily indebted president, according to NBC. The New York Times recently reported that Trump owes $421 million in business debt that he has personally guaranteed. Forbes investigations have indicated Trump could owe closer to $1 billion.
“Is that a risk?” former CIA officer and author of “The President’s Book of Secrets” David Preiss asked in an NBC interview. “If it were someone applying for a security clearance, damn right it would be a risk.”
Such concern about state secrets is “not something that one could have ever imagined with other presidents, but it’s easy to imagine with this one,” Jack Goldsmith, who worked as a senior Justice Department official in the George W. Bush administration, told NBC.
“He’s shown as president that he doesn’t take secret-keeping terribly seriously,” Goldsmith added. “He has a known tendency to disrespect rules related to national security. And he has a known tendency to like to sell things that are valuable to him.”
Former CIA officer Doug Wise noted in a piece in Just Security earlier this month that Trump’s large debts pose “obvious and alarming counterintelligence risks” to the U.S.
“A frightening scenario is where the owners of Trump’s debt or actors like Putin who have the massive capacity to make him debt free pressure Trump into making decisions that are beneficial to Russia in the final days of his administration,” Wise wrote.
Trump’s biggest creditor is reportedly Deutsche Bank, a German institution with ties to Russia. Such an entanglement would typically exclude someone from a top-secret clearance.
In addition, Trump has international business interests or business relationships with people in China, Russia and other nations with interests contrary to America’s that would benefit from access to U.S. state secrets.
Earlier this month, former CIA director John Brennan said Trump “not only has total disdain for the intelligence community, but a disregard for the intelligence itself.” (Check out the video below.)
The president has “called for the wholesale declassification of intelligence in order to further his own personal political interests,” Brennan told Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC. Trump will leave the White House with knowledge of state secrets, as well as records that he can use to “advance his own personal, political or even financial interests,” Brennan warned.
Trump has often been reckless with secret information in the White House, such as the time he bragged about sensitive information linked to a terrorist threat to Russian officials in the Oval Office in 2017. That year, Trump also gave the location of two American nuclear submarines near North Korea to the president of the Philippines.
Earlier this year, Trump revealed the existence of a secret American nuclear weapons system in interviews with Bob Woodward for the journalist’s latest book.
Last year, he tweeted what experts said was a secret satellite photo of an Iranian nuclear installation.