The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion When President Trump’s bodyguard revealed Jim Mattis’s private cellphone number

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. (Associated Press/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

This Is Not Normal. It’s a mantra among politics-watchers, an attempt to force ourselves to see clearly through the toxic levels of absurdity caking Washington these days. The poker-faced way the news is generally reported, it’s feared, will normalize (for example) that the president is reportedly asking federal employees to swear loyalty to him personally, notwithstanding their oaths of loyalty to the country. So it’s relatively difficult, on this side of the screen, to get across that these days things are basically always bonkers.

So I’m helping by sharing this story, today’s entry in This Is Not Normal.

We got a call Friday from a reader named Paul Redmond that The Post had accidentally published Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s private cell phone number.

A story about President Trump’s bodyguard Keith Schiller, Redmond said, was accompanied by a photograph of the two of them walking on White House grounds. The bodyguard was holding a stack of papers, and, according to the caller, on the outside of those papers was a yellow sticky note that said “Jim, Mad Dog, Mattis” and had a phone number.

How Keith Schiller, Trump's former bodyguard, followed his boss to the White House (Video: Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

This of course sounds impossible. Way more care than that is taken around the president, right? The Secret Service is good at secrecy, generally. So I thanked the guy for the call and dubiously pulled up the photo in question. With the monitor turned 90 degrees and the photo blown up, indeed, I could make out a number and what might be “Jim, Mad Dog, Mattis,” if you have better eyesight than mine even when I squint.

I called. I got the voice mail. It was him.

Yes, of course, the president’s bodyguard — the guy famous for punching someone outside of Trump Tower, the guy who according to the story has the president’s complete trust — is employing the yellow sticky note system of information security. I got the tingly sensation that means someone important should know this and told my co-worker Anna and then my boss and one of the reporters who wrote the article.

The Post has now replaced the picture in that article. I’m not sure what the protocol is, other than getting the secretary of defense a new phone number. We should feel lucky Paul Redmond of Orange County, Calif., saw it before the Russians. As far as we know.

Nothing. Is. Normal.