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Donald Trump’s tweets harm national security, says former CIA director

Leon Panetta was reacting to the president's wiretapping accusations.


David Gilmour


Posted on Mar 8, 2017   Updated on May 24, 2021, 9:26 pm CDT

Former CIA director and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta voiced his concerns that each Twitter outburst by President Donald Trump’s “weakens the office of the presidency.”

Trump tweeted on Saturday a controversial and, so far, baseless allegation that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the presidential election.

On Sunday, Panetta reacted to the tweet on CBS’ Face the Nation, criticizing the president’s lack of discipline online as dangerous. He also said that if the administration is serious about the accusation, it should “get ahead” and present their evidence.

“When the president goes off and does what he did in the last few days of just going ahead and tweeting without checking on things, there’s something wrong,” he said. “There’s something wrong in terms of the discipline within the White House and how you operate.”

“Every time these things happen, every time he tweets, every time these issues come up that indicate that there’s obviously something to this Russian issue and the administration is not cooperating, when that happens, when he accuses a past president of wiretapping without any evidence of that being the case, it makes us vulnerable. It weakens the United States and it makes us vulnerable to our enemies. That’s the danger,” he continued.

Speaking in another interview, this time with CNN on Tuesday evening, the former CIA director said that he believed that “the White House is in a bunker mentality in which they think everybody is against them” and repeated how concerning he found Trump’s tweeting.

“I mean this is the president of the United States,” Panetta said. “And he has a responsibility to speak the truth to the American people. When he engages in these kinds of tweets and throws out these kinds of allegations, I think he weakens the office of the presidency.”

It was a sentiment echoed by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on CNN.

Panetta also suggested that Trump was using social media to distract from investigations and scrutiny of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“There are a number of crisis points that the United States has to consider,” he said, referencing growing tensions with North Korea as well as the situation in the Middle East. “The problem is when we’re diverted, when the president is diverted from paying attention to those crises, we pay a price.”

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*First Published: Mar 8, 2017, 10:17 am CST