Efforts like sharing sensitive information with Russians by Donald Trump undermines the credibility of US presidency, former defence secretary, CIA chief and White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta said today.
"I watch this President rationalise these kinds of things and the problem that really bothers me is that it undermines the credibility of the office of the presidency," Panetta told CNN, a day after The Washington Post reported that Trump has shared sensitive classified information with the Russians.
The White House described the information as false, while Trump in a series of tweets said that he shared information for humanitarian purpose and in the fight against ISIS.
Trump asserted that he was absolutely right in doing so.
"He is President of the US, he is not a reality TV star. He's not just another personality, he is President of the US," said Panetta who served in the Clinton and Obama administrations.
Panetta, who headed the CIA when al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011 in Pakistan, said there are serious responsibilities that relate to a President of the US in terms of intelligence and security of the country and he cannot just go ahead and reveal classified information without creating some huge problems within the Intelligence Community in terms of gathering that kind of information.
"So, what bothers me here is that the President of the United States, an office that I respect throughout my life -- I just think this President has to understand that he cannot just say whatever the hell he wants and expect that it doesn't carry consequences," he said.
Panetta said Trump has to deep-down understand that he is President of the United States.
"That this is isn't about the last election, this isn't about Democrats, Republicans. This is about being President of the United States and carrying huge responsibilities in terms of our country and our security," he noted.
"That's what he has to understand. There have to be people around him, very frankly, that make very clear that that's the way he's got to behave," Panetta said.
Panetta claimed that the information that was provided by Trump to Russians was provided by a Middle Eastern country that was very sensitive about the information involved here and that made very clear that they did not want this intelligence shared.
"So, the President then decides he's going to go ahead and reveal classified information. Obviously, presidents can do whatever they want but what is the damage from that? The damage is that this country may cut off any kind of intelligence provided to the US on very sensitive issues that relate to the national security of this country," he rued.
"That's the damage that can be done here and the president needs to understand that. This is not just a joke, this is very serious business that relates to the security of this country," he said in response to a question.
Panetta said that Trump has a good national security team and he obviously listens to that team.
"But they have got to make very clear to the President what he can and cannot do. This President is a loose cannon. I mean we've seen that happen. He's got to have some lines here. He's got to have some guardrails," he said.
Panetta said if this president is going to be successful he has got to be disciplined, and the main problem right now is that he is not disciplined.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)