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The Constitution established a series of compromises between those who feared a king would be in charge of the executive branch and those who wanted the president to have enough power to do the will of the people. Among those protections that have been debated and codified over the centuries is the president’s power over classified information. That power is essentially endless, which is why even whistleblowers can’t just leak information to the press or expect Congress to have access to their complaints when it pertains to national security.
Such is the case with the recent reports that a whistleblower has come forward accusing President Trump of making inappropriate promises to foreign leaders.
Like it or not, Democrats are not going to get access to this information. When President Clinton signed the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998, he asserted, it “does not constrain my constitutional authority to review and, if appropriate, control disclosure of certain classified information to Congress.”
Robert Litt, who served as general counsel to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in the Obama administration, noted that Mr. Clinton asserted the right to executive privilege when he signed into law the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998.
“The executive branch has always maintained that it does not consider the statutory language mandatory,” Mr. Litt wrote on the Lawfare blog. “In signing the original Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998, President Clinton stated that it ‘does not constrain my constitutional authority to review and, if appropriate, control disclosure of certain classified information to Congress.’
“President Obama reiterated this limitation in 2010,” he said. “Congress no doubt disagrees with this interpretation, but the president’s ultimate control over classified information has been a consistent position of every administration.”
Some may say this is unfair, that it puts too much power in the president’s hands when it comes to dealing with foreign governments. But what critics fail to understand is the necessity of a strong executive branch when negotiating with foreign powers. We already have protections through which the fruits of negotiations require approval, including the ratification of treaties. To hamper the President into speaking too carefully with dignitaries because he’s worried about whistleblowers is an unnecessary burden.
Moreover, not allowing this privilege would open the doors for compromised individuals to spill too many secrets. The handling of classified information must be maintained at the highest level, and that means giving the President complete control.
Democrats can scream all they want, but their predecessors knew what was at stake. Whether it’s President Clinton, President Obama, or President Washington, they knew the importance of classified information. President Trump is no exception.
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