Washington: In tweets and speeches, President Donald Trump has taken pride in voicing his inner thoughts, no matter how blunt or offensive. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that he and his aides also have made a habit of revealing their personal notes to the public.
Last week, national security adviser John Bolton addressed reporters at the White House while holding a yellow legal pad bearing confidential notations in plain view of cameras. Among them was what appeared to be a potential plan to mobilize military troops in response to Venezuela’s political crisis, prompting media speculation over how Bolton, a seasoned diplomat, could have made such a goof.
Some pundits speculated that Bolton, a veteran of the George W. Bush administration, was sending a warning to Venezuela’s regime. But Trump critics saw it as endemic of a pervasive carelessness of a White House that eschews process and preparation in favour of the president’s impulsiveness and disdain for protocol.
White House under strain
“I can’t recall an incident like this in the Obama administration,” said Ned Price, who served as a national security spokesman for President Barack Obama. “We had stern admonitions to always have cover sheets, always carry sensitive information in a folder.”
Revealing private notes, including Bush asking written permission for a “bathroom break” at the UN in 2005, have bedeviled past presidents - but rarely with the frequency of the Trump White House.
Bolton’s appearance in the briefing room was a flashback to the earliest days of the administration. During the transition after the 2016 election, as Trump was interviewing Cabinet candidates, Kris Kobach, then the Kansas secretary of state, was photographed carrying exposed notes outlining a hard line immigration agenda for the Department of Homeland Security. Among other things, Kobach was proposing to deny entry to all Syrian refugees - at a time when the Obama administration was accepting thousands of them.
After he had taken office, Trump was ridiculed when he was photographed with a classified information lockbag under a pile of papers on the Resolute Desk with a key dangling from the lock. Trump has presided over photo-ops at which he has left his stagenotes in plain view. He has waved private letters from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un with some words visible to cameras. And he has displayed official documents, including an accord with Kim in Singapore last June, that disclosed details that aides had yet to publicly disseminate - prompting reporters to break news by examining news photographs of the documents.
— Washington Post