President Trump. (Evan Vucci/AP)
Opinion writer

In July 2016, then-FBI Director James B. Comey announced his findings on the Hillary Clinton email probe:

The investigation began as a referral from the Intelligence Community Inspector General in connection with Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal e-mail server during her time as Secretary of State. The referral focused on whether classified information was transmitted on that personal system.

Our investigation looked at whether there is evidence classified information was improperly stored or transmitted on that personal system, in violation of a federal statute making it a felony to mishandle classified information either intentionally or in a grossly negligent way, or a second statute making it a misdemeanor to knowingly remove classified information from appropriate systems or storage facilities.

Consistent with our counterintelligence responsibilities, we have also investigated to determine whether there is evidence of computer intrusion in connection with the personal e-mail server by any foreign power, or other hostile actors.

Using unapproved government systems at risk of foreign intrusion to discuss classified materials requires a counterintelligence and then criminal investigations, right? Comey determined that Clinton’s actions were “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.” President Trump, first as a candidate and now as president, has said that warranted prosecution, conviction and imprisonment.

Well, it turns out that Trump has done something extremely careless, although we do not know yet whether “very sensitive, highly classified information” was conveyed. Politico reports:

President Donald Trump uses a White House cellphone that isn’t equipped with sophisticated security features designed to shield his communications, according to two senior administration officials — a departure from the practice of his predecessors that potentially exposes him to hacking or surveillance. . . .

The president uses at least two iPhones, according to one of the officials. The phones — one capable only of making calls, the other equipped only with the Twitter app and preloaded with a handful of news sites — are issued by White House Information Technology and the White House Communications Agency, an office staffed by military personnel that oversees White House telecommunications.

Trump has created two potential security risks. First, “The president has gone as long as five months without having the phone checked by security experts. It is unclear how often Trump’s call-capable phones, which are essentially used as burner phones, are swapped out.” Second, “Trump’s call-capable cellphone has a camera and microphone, unlike the White House-issued cellphones used by [President Barack] Obama. Keeping those components creates a risk that hackers could use them to access the phone and monitor the president’s movements.” The kicker, according to Politico’s sources: The president said that it was “too inconvenient” to swap out his phones. Yes, the very same excuse that Clinton used for her home server is now Trump’s excuse.

Remember that Trump declared repeatedly during the campaign that Clinton’s email negligence disqualified her as president? In January 2016 he said that the email scandal was “a disaster for Hillary Clinton. At a minimum, how can someone with such bad judgement be our next president?” He had this zinger in July 2016: “Crooked Hillary Clinton and her team ‘were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.’ Not fit!” His refrain continued throughout the summer. Even after being elected, Trump demanded that the Justice Department look into Clinton’s emails to determine whether she committed a crime. His supporters still chant “Lock her up! Lock her up!”

What we do not know is whether classified information was communicated over the phones and/or whether Trump’s calls were intercepted by foreign governments. But the president’s thought process and range of options on virtually any national security matter are of tremendous value to adversaries. The president theoretically has the authority to declassify anything he pleases. However, if information he conveyed over the phone is still considered classified by his own administration, Trump has at the very least a serious political problem. (If he wants to claim that any information is protected by the executive privilege, sharing with outsiders waives the privilege.) If his phones were hacked in any fashion, we have a national security disaster on our hands.

There is every reason to conduct the very same process that Clinton went through — an inspector general investigation. That may determine whether the president compromised national security. In any event, by Trump’s own standards, anyone so sloppy as to create the risk of a security breach has no business being president. Moreover, as president, he sets the standard for his entire administration. If he doesn’t care about following security protocols, why should any appointee or bureaucrat?

Read more by Jennifer Rubin:

Did Rosenstein and Wray play Trump?

Democrats, here’s a better message: ‘Oust the GOP’s wimps and weaklings’

Trump keeps bulldozing over our legal norms

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