This week in Trump’s presidency brings up a stock of new issues with WikiLeaks’ release of thousands of documents detailing the C.I.A.’s hacking operations and techniques. According to The New York Times, “There is no evidence that the C.I.A. hacking tools have been used against Americans,” but WikiLeaks affirm that both Apple and Android smartphones have been compromised. According to WikiLeaks, their source’s agenda was to begin a public debate on “whether [or not] the C.I.A.’s hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers,” but an argument has been made that the source was instead an outside power that took the documents and gave them to WikiLeaks in order to either weaken national security or to release the code to foreign hackers. The F.B.I. and C.I.A. have opened up a criminal investigation into the leak’s origins, and some officials told CNN “that the documents published so far are largely genuine.”
In other news, President Trump has continued to accuse former President Barack Obama of wiretapping phones in Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign. After tweeting Saturday “How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” Trump asked for an investigation into his allegations as he continued to tweet inflammatory accusations about the Obama administration, about which Mr. Obama has remained quiet. A presidential historian, Douglas Brinkley, told The Wall Street Journal that the fact that “a sitting president would charge his predecessor with a felony…creates a feeling of instability in the United States.” Since then, the Department of Justice has not submitted any hard evidence to President Trump’s claim for the House Intelligence Committee to review. Rather, they have requested and received an extension for the deadline on a date before the hearing on Russian involvement in the U.S. election on March 20th. Sunday, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain told CNN that “The president has one of two choices, either retract or provide the information that the American people deserve…I have no reason to believe that the charge is true, but I also believe that the president of the United States could clear this up in a minute,” and that following Monday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer tried to clarify that President Trump was neither being literal or specific in his accusations.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration ordered the 46 remaining U.S. government attorneys to tender their resignation on Friday. This came as a surprise to many, especially former US attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, who was specifically promised in November that he would be allowed to stay on. According to CNN, after Bharara refused to submit his resignation, Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente called him, not only to confirm his refusal, but to tell Bharara that Trump was then firing him. Although the cycling out of attorneys is typical in the changeover from president to president, it’s traditionally done gradually, as opposed to Trump’s expeditious upset. Senator Elizabeth Warren later accused President Trump of having an agenda behind ordering the resignations so quickly, in order to reduce the number of Obama prosecutors and facilitate the installation of “cronies” in their place.
These new controversies seem to be more tumultuous distractions from the bigger picture–that the Trump administration, and President Trump himself, is not prepared to juggle the duties and responsibilities of governing the United States. This is evident in his refusal to uphold tradition and his disregard for the presidential processes. Trump’s use of twitter is decidedly unpresidential, as is his handling of the wiretapping case and his baseless accusations. These actions reflect the tantrum of a child.
The Bharara case, as well, is an extreme upset, not only in the stand-off between Bharara and Trump, but in the possible consequences in the aftermath should Warren’s statements be true. It appears as though Trump is working through his administration, weeding out possible Obama supporters and replacing them with “cronies” where he can, in order to accelerate his own ultimate agenda as President of the United States.
As for the Wikileaks case, the origins of the documents are extremely concerning. They lead to wondering who else might have the same sensitive information, especially the coding behind the C.I.A.’s hacking techniques. The fact that Apple and Android phones have been compromised is also concerning, and, although the C.I.A. continues to affirm that no surveillance is carried out on American citizens, we should continue to remain skeptical so as to preserve our liberties.
By Lukas Villarin, NYU Florence