The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion The GOP’s campaign against the FBI makes the nation less safe

President-elect Donald Trump and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani in Bedminster, N.J., on Nov. 20, 2016.
President-elect Donald Trump and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani in Bedminster, N.J., on Nov. 20, 2016. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)
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IN THEIR paranoid partisan war on the Justice Department’s Russia probe, President Trump’s allies have been pushing for the dangerous disclosure of national security information, including information about a top-secret FBI and CIA informant. If Mr. Trump took his responsibility to protect the nation seriously, he would tell his allies to be quiet. Instead, he joined them Thursday. “Word seems to be coming out that the Obama FBI ‘SPIED ON THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN WITH AN EMBEDDED INFORMANT,’ ” Mr. Trump tweeted, in an apparent reference to the confidential source. “If so, this is bigger than Watergate!”

Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s lawyer and a former Justice Department official who should know better than to spread such slander, told The Post that the president thinks that there is a law-enforcement conspiracy against him. “The prior government did it, but the present government, for some reason I can’t figure out, is covering it up,” he said. He also said: “I don’t know why the current attorney general and the current director of the FBI want to protect a bunch of renegades that might amount to 20 people at most within the FBI.” Yet Mr. Giuliani admitted Friday that the president does not really know whether the FBI planted anyone in his campaign. CNN also reported Friday that U.S. officials insist that no informant was embedded.

The GOP’s escalating campaign against the FBI is extremely dangerous. Protecting the country is not just about having the biggest weapons. Trust is a key national security asset. Vast networks of informants relay information to the U.S. government daily. Sometimes their tips prove faulty. Sometimes they prevent terrorist attacks or provide the key piece of information necessary to bring down major criminals. If confidential informants conclude that they cannot rely on the assurances of the U.S. government, they will think twice about sending in tips, wearing wires or approaching malicious actors. That is why intelligence and law enforcement agencies spend vast amounts of time and money protecting the identity of sources and informants.

Before now, it was unthinkable that the president himself would be a weak link in this system. Though the executive can declassify information at will, exposing confidential informants would be so reckless that no reasonable leader would purposely do so. Unfortunately, Mr. Trump is not reasonable.

If there are any grown-ups left in the leadership of the Republican Party, it is past time for them to pull the reins. Why has House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) allowed Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) to turn the House Intelligence Committee into an anti-FBI propaganda factory? At what point do the unfounded suspicions that Mr. Nunes and other Republicans have stoked spur a dangerous crisis of trust in law enforcement?

“The day that we can’t protect human sources is the day the American people start becoming less safe,” FBI Director Christopher A. Wray said Wednesday. More and more, the Republican Party is complicit in making the nation less safe. Is there anyone in the party’s senior ranks who will insist on ending this madness?

Read more:

Jennifer Rubin: Team Trump’s egregious gambit

Paul Waldman: What do we know about the ‘FBI informant’ Trump keeps talking about?

Greg Sargent: It’s right there in plain sight