The New York Times expose on President Donald Trump’s taxes has continued as they released further information about the unfortunate posotion the president is in financially. Even Trump’s son Eric Trump flipped out, confessing that his father has lost millions over the past several years, which likely explains why the president is in debt to the tune of nearly $500 million.
A Sunday op-ed in the Washington Post from a former acting director of the CIA Michael Morell and former assistant attorney general for national security David Kris explained how dangerous it is for the leader of the United States to be so far in debt.
“Multiple studies have shown that, while betrayal of one’s country is a crime that has complex psychological underpinnings, money is a leading motivator,” the editorial explained. “And paying off large, unsustainable debts is often a driver of an interest in money.”
They named Aldrich Ames, one of the most dangerous spies from the Cold War, who confessed that the reason he coordinated with the Soviet Union was that he was so far in debt.
“As former national security officials of the government, we have no special insight into President Trump’s financial condition, but if the recent news accounts are correct, his financial situation presents a significant counterintelligence risk — because the millions of dollars he owes over the next few years put his very financial solvency at risk,” the gentlemen wrote. “If he can’t pay these debts, he may face severe business, political and social consequences.”
They explained that this would be the conclusions of the intelligence agencies trying to decide if someone should be given security clearance. As president, however, Trump never had to go through any security clearance processes. If the president was a normal applicant for the position, however, he wouldn’t have been cleared by the intelligence agencies, the men explained.
In the security clearance forms, Standard Form 86, the “Questionnaire for National Security Positions” or the SF-18, there’s “no financial or personal stone unturned.”
“Apart from questions about family and marital history, mental health, and drug and alcohol use, the form demands a massive amount of financial data, including whether you have filed for bankruptcy, failed to pay taxes, experienced financial problems as a result of gambling, defaulted on a loan, had any account or credit card suspended, or been more than 120 days delinquent on any debt,” the report said. “Applicants sign broad waivers allowing investigators to review their private financial (and medical) records.”
Other than that, if someone has ties to foreign adversaries, they also don’t get clearances. The concerns are among the reasons that Jared Kushner wasn’t given a clearance level that he sought, and the president had to step in.
President Barack Obama’s aide Alyssa Mastromonaco wrote in her book that her pot-smoking could have ended her career if she hadn’t been honest about it in her security clearance conversation. She was upfront with agents about her habits, explaining, “I’m from Vermont” and giving up cannabis while working in the White House.
“But there is an additional, just as insidious risk, that is more subtle: a president, eager or even desperate to clear his accounts might, without any foreign intervention, pursue policies not with the goal of furthering U.S. national interests, but rather with the goal of advancing his or her business either before leaving office or after,” the men wrote. “Both types are a betrayal of one’s country.”
They noted that it’s unknown who Trump owes his debt to, but it has become a serious risk for the United States for all of the reasons listed and more.
“There is no evidence that the counterintelligence risk has come to fruition with the president, but there are signs — Trump’s refusal to call out Russian President Vladimir Putin for a variety of damaging actions, for example — that could suggest that the second, more subtle risk, may be playing out before us,” the piece closed. “Money has powerful impact on the psyches of many people — and not always for the good. That’s why the SF-86, and the transparency it provides, is so important — at least for those who have to fill it out.”
Read the full editorial at the Washington Post.