Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Mar-a-Lago Members Can Buy Fortune Cookies with Classified Information Inside


SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- For Donald Trump, sharing state secrets with any interested foreign actor has become a sort of proving ground in a rite of passage to be accepted as a legitimate global leader -- a way to validate that he holds genuine power and knowledge. But as his approval rating plummets into an abyss of historic lows, even among right-wing pollsters, Trump has found himself perched atop a fulcrum on which his authority and ability to command teeter. He has become desperate to reassert his image of brash confidence and superior insight. So beginning on June 1, restaurants at Trump’s Palm Beach resort will treat curious diners to confidential secrets that promise to be juicier than their overcooked, cloth-textured steaks. For $500, visitors to Mar-a-Lago may purchase fortune cookies that contain one piece of classified U.S. intelligence (limit one cookie per guest).

Loose Lips Sink Ships But Build Relationships

Donald Trump has remained highly secretive about his financial situation, tax obligations, dalliances with Russian prostitutes and business connections that potentially breach established ethics or create dangerous conflicts of interest. However, when it comes to divulging classified information, the president is anything but shy. Like Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, Trump almost seems cursed to stop one out of every three strangers to regale the hapless listener with tales of sensitive intelligence and covert military schemes.

President Trump has routinely released classified plans to foreign nationals who have been deemed hostile to U.S. interest. During his most recent meeting with Russian officials, Trump openly discussed U.S. strategies for thwarting ISIS.

During his visit with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, the violent despot who has sanctioned extrajudicial killings of suspected drug dealers or anyone the public considers a nuisance, Trump sought to gain expert advice on employing similar strategies. In exchange, the U.S. president rewarded Duterte with information that he had stationed two nuclear submarines within striking distance of North Korea.

On May 16, Trump then welcomed Turkey’s ruler, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to Washington. That visit ended with Trump handing over America’s missile launch codes in a fit of wounded pride and boasting. Presidential aides recalled the tense moment when Erdogan questioned the amount of access Trump had to privileged information.

“The president responded with aplomb,” said National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. “Mr. Trump told Erdogan, ‘I’m one of the smartest men in the world. Everybody knows that. I have access to everything.’ The Turkish president challenged Mr. Trump’s claims of having exclusive control over the United States’ nuclear arsenal. Then Trump -- and this was glorious -- handed the codes right over to Erdogan. Boy, was he embarrassed. Egg all over his face.”

Mar-a-Lago Membership Privileges: Privileged Information for the Price of Admission

Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, dubbed the “Winter Whitehouse,” has become a hotbed of controversy and compromised security. The president has still failed to take the necessary steps to distance himself from his business interests. On January 23, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a lawsuit alleging that Trump’s companies receive payments from foreign governments, a violation of the Constitution’s “Emoluments Clause.”

The situation with Mar-a-Lago is more tenuous and pressing. The club’s membership list is private, so the American public has no recourse to learning who may be overhearing the sensitive conversations the president shares with visiting dignitaries. The Atlantic also reported that the “Trump Organization’s decision to double Mar-a-Lago’s initiation fees led to accusations of profiteering, premised on the notion that people would be willing to pony up in the hopes of earning an audience with the commander-in-chief.”

Trump has leveraged his position to capitalize on growing the venue’s profits, as membership implies access to the president. But the property, which remains open to all members, lacks the mobile security perimeter -- or sensitive compartmented information facility (SCIF) -- that Trump’s predecessors regularly installed when hosting meetings outside the walls of the Oval Office. The utter absence of proper security protocols was most evident on February 11, when Trump hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

“As news of a North Korean missile test broke during dinner,” the Atlantic noted, “Trump and Abe discussed the situation in public, using light from phones of gathered onlookers to read briefing documents, an incredibly lax approach to information security, particularly ironic given that Trump won in part because of his opponent’s own lapses in information security.”

Trump now finds himself in a predicament. To earn the public’s faith back, he must convince them that he has his hands on the most sensitive secrets in the United States. But Trump’s schedule has made it more difficult for him to maintain frequent broadcasts of clandestine plans on Twitter. Meanwhile, top advisers have urged the president to exercise more discretion in what he relays and to which audiences. The Mar-a-Lago fortune cookie strategy, Trump believes, solves the problem.

This Fortune Cookie’s Lucky Numbers Could Be Launch Codes

Club membership costs $200,000 plus a recurring annual fee of $15,000. At those prices, Trump representatives explained, only the most elite individuals can afford to enroll. The fortune cookies also cost $500 a piece, and no member may receive more than one slip of classified information.

“We’re limiting recipients of state’s secrets to foreign dictators and wealthy Mar-a-Lago members,” Trump said. “I feel very strongly that rich people represent the most trustworthy Americans. They have put in a lot of hard, honest work to achieve their fortunes. And they have no idea what piece of government intelligence could be in a fortune cookie. I don’t even know. It could be code to an NSA hacking program, James Comey’s memos, FBI profiles, CIA reports on the assassination of Kennedy by Ted Cruz’s father, coordinates to the resting place of Jimmy Hoffa, pictures of me being peed on by Russian hookers, the identity of Barron’s biological dad or who knows what else.”

(c) 2017. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License. All articles are works of satire. See disclaimers.

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