In late August of 2019, more than two and a half years into his first and only term, Donald Trump tweeted a photo that many at the time thought might be a classified spy image, setting the internet on fire.
As it turns out, it was.
Calling it "an infamous moment in the Trump presidency — one that former intelligence officials say perfectly illustrated his approach to dealing with state secrets," NBC News on Tuesday reported that on August 30, 2019, a "former senior intelligence official with firsthand knowledge told NBC News that Trump did indeed tweet a highly classified image taken by a secret spy satellite, as many experts suspected at the time. And in doing so, the official and others said, Trump gave U.S. adversaries keen insights into the U.S. capabilities to spy from above."
Trump's Twitter account is gone, permanently suspended after the Jan. 6 insurrection, and with it all the tweets he posted over many years.
But this is a screenshot of that tweet captured by the Internet Archive (with what appears to be Finnish):
“The president tweeted a picture of an Iranian missile launch site that showed a failed ICBM test launch that everybody acknowledged was a highly classified picture taken from space,” former national security adviser John Bolton told NBC News. “He tweeted it out, and that of course declassified it by definition, but also showed what could happen when such a picture, even on a Twitter attachment, was then able to be analyzed by foreign intelligence services.”
“We had this image of the Iranian missile blown up, and it was exquisite intelligence, and he didn’t even wait,” a former senior intelligence official said. “As soon as we showed him, he said, ‘Hey, I’m tweeting this.’”
Trump "spent no time understanding what made something a secret and what we protected," that former official also told NBC News.
"CIA Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire tried to talk Trump out of doing it," NBC News adds, "noting that the U.S. spent billions of dollars developing capabilities to capture images from space, and told Trump, 'You can’t do this. If you put this out, they’re going understand what our capability is.'"
Falsely, he responded: “Look, I’m the president, I can declassify anything.”