7 reasons why Biden and Trump are national security risks

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In February, President Biden turned down the traditional Superbowl pregame interview, during which he could have appeared personable and presidential to more than 100 million American viewers.

That decision prompted Democratic strategist James Carville to warn it was “a sign that the staff or yourself doesn’t have much confidence in you. There’s no other way to read this.”

Carville’s “read” has since been proven correct by Biden’s ghastly debate performance, which pierced the protective shield his family and staff had created around him. At age 81, Biden’s shocking infirmity was witnessed by 51.3 million people, who saw that the world’s most powerful leader had exceeded his political expiration date.

Former President Trump, at age 78, is also considered unfit for office by half the nation.  Both men have unfavorable ratings exceeding 56 percent, signaling the presidential nominating system of the longest-lasting democracy is failing its people. 

Globally, the BBC has reported disparaging reviews of the Biden-Trump debate. Chinese state media said it was “like a reality show” with Trump “lying” and Biden “mumbling,” concluding that both are “currently facing difficulties.” The Russian media branded Biden’s performance as a “total failure” with concerns about his “mental health.

Afterward, I called a high-level defense consultant, concerned that the debate presented a national security risk. “Trump and Biden’s debate performance was a catastrophe for U.S. national security,” he said emphatically. “Electing Trump or reelecting Biden is a sign of weakness that entices China to invade Taiwan and encourages Putin to keep going — but don’t mention my name.”

There are at least seven reasons why electing Trump or Biden would imperil national security.

First, the unwritten rule of “one president at a time” could be tested. Suppose Trump continues his glide path to a projected 312 Electoral Votes, such that Biden comes to be viewed as a lame-duck caretaker president from now until Election Day. During this time, the president could be undermined by elected officials, Trump loyalists gunning for cabinet posts and the last members of Trump’s foreign affairs team whom he did not fire.

A prime example is Richard Grenell, whom Trump calls his global “envoy” and who may be the next secretary of State. Grenell was Trump’s ambassador to Germany and then his unconfirmed acting director of national intelligence. On Apr. 5, the Guardian chronicled how Grenell’s “shadow foreign policy campaign is unsettling diplomats and threatens to collapse U.S. interests.” Indeed, our enemies could find ways to exploit even the mere hint that there are two competing presidents this fall.

Second, Biden’s exposed frailty is ripe for testing by America’s adversaries. Was it a coincidence that, three days after the June 27 debate, a terrorism alert was issued for U.S. military bases in Europe? A “3 a.m.” crisis is when a tired, weak commander in chief could cause delayed or indecisive actions followed by a blame game from Team Trump.   

Third, Trump poses a unique risk to national security as to whether the intelligence community can trust him with classified material. Last year, he was charged in a 32-count indictment for violating the Espionage Act after refusing to surrender boxes with sensitive government-owned documents stored at his Florida residence. His trial date is still in limbo.

Allies might also be reluctant to share vital intelligence with the Trump administration, considering the former president’s history of blabbing secrets and holding questionable allegiances. As a private citizen, after being convicted of 34 felonies and found guilty of civil financial fraud, Trump would be denied a security clearance but, if reelected, he will still be granted access to unlimited intelligence.

Fourth, NATO’s 75th Anniversary Summit begins on July 9 in Washington, D.C. This will be the first time Biden could be perceived as a wounded “lame duck.” Ironically, it was Biden’s leadership that helped strengthen the alliance and has successfully contained Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Two major global security questions will be on the agenda at the summit. The first is whether Ukraine will be invited to join NATO. The second is how NATO can “Trump-proof” itself and its support for Ukraine. Since Trump’s past anti-NATO stance is considered a threat, members anticipate relying less on American funding, weapons, and leadership. Biden also Trump-proofed U.S. NATO membership when, in December, he signed legislation requiring two-thirds Senate approval before the U.S. could withdraw from the alliance.

With Biden hosting NATO leaders in Washington, the “one president at a time rule” could be tested. Watch whether, smelling victory, a chest-thumping Trump sends envoys or makes a surprise off-site visit to conduct informal meetings.

Fifth: The Trump Organization’s new foreign projects are teeming with national security risks. This week, the Trump Organization announced a new project in Saudi Arabia. More Trump-Saudi business deals mean more conflicts. Shortly after Trump left office, the Saudi government invested $2 billion in Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner’s newly formed investment firm.

And let’s not forget about Trump’s failed 2016-2017 effort to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Perhaps it could be revived in his second term, when there will be no presidential guardrails.

Sixth, the status of Trump and Vladimir Putin’s relationship poses a risk. Some worry that Putin might have financial influence over the former president. Other believe there exists “Kompromat” — compromising information that Putin can use to keep Trump in line.

If Trump is reelected, watch how fast he tries to end U.S. support for Ukraine, pleasing Putin with devastating consequences for Europe. It has long been reported that American intelligence agencies believed Russia had “leverages of pressure” over President Donald Trump — one more national security risk for intelligence agencies to monitor during Trump’s second term.

Seventh, Trump will enjoy an “imperial presidency” on steroids, thanks to the Supreme Court’s immunity decision, which prompted Justice Sonia Sotomayor to write, “In every use of official power, the president is now a king above the law.”

Both Trump and Biden present national security problems, but if Biden ends his campaign, leadership uncertainty dramatically increases global short-term risk. And a second Trump term is potentially riskier because many believe that Trump worships power and money and seeks unholy revenge bolstered by an army of followers who worship him as God’s chosen.

Myra Adams served on the creative team of two Republican presidential campaigns, in 2004 and 2008.

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