tv CNN Tonight With Don Lemon CNN May 15, 2017 8:00pm-9:01pm PDT
fmy doctor recommended ibgard. abdominal pain and bloating. now i'm in control of my ibs. nonprescription ibgard - calms the angry gut. this is cnn breaking news. >> breaking news. stunning reports that president trump shared highly classified information with the russian foreign minister and ambassador to the u.s. this is cnn tonight. i'm don lemon. the administration denying that report in the washington post. but two former officials tell cnn that the main point of the post story are accurate. we're not quite four months into the trump presidency and senator bob corker puts it bluntly tonight "the white house is in a downward spiral." global affairs analyst, david row and diplomatic analyst, kirby.
good evening to all of you gentleman. what are you hearing from your sources? >> from myself and jake tapper, two former officials knowledgeable say that president did share classified information with the russian foreign minister, the russian ambassador. intelligence officials tell cnn there is concern russia will be able to figure out that highly sensitive source. there is some disagreement as to how far the president went. this intelligence relates to what is known as special access programs or s.a.p. which cover some of the most highly classified information and proteched with unique access and security protocols. there are different views, analysis and what we're told is that some are more concerned about the degree to which the president went with this information than others. but the concern remains did he go far enough that russia could,
based on this information, and the details, could russia conclude where it came from? in particular what partner of the u.s. the source the information, which would be uncounk uncomfortab uncomfortable. >> what's the reaction from the white house? >> well, the white house is somewhat unified, although their messaging is a little confused as to what they are denying. in general they're saying this story is false. let's listen on the white house national security advisor, h.r. mcmaster. >> there's nothing that the president takes more seriously than the security of the american people. the story that came out as reported is false. the president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries including to civil aviation. at no time, at no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed and the president did not disclose any military
operations that were not already publicly known. two other senior officials rbs including the secretary state remember the meeting the same way and have said so. their accounts should out weigh those of anonymous sources. i was in the room. it didn't happen. thank you, everybody. >> let's be clear what he denied. he said the president did not reveal the source and did not talk about any military operations. we are told by more than one source with knowledge of this meeting that president revealed sensitive intelligence that, based on that intelligence, they may be able to conclude where it came from. that would lead the way for the russians to that source. >> and be to specific about what's in the washington post report, it's reporting that he was boasting about inside knowledge of a looming threat from the islamic state.
why was he bragging about something like that? >> it's the long tenancy of the president to talk big and the difference between making a sale, frankly, and being president. and this presents a real problem for republicans. this is again where his tendency to brag, to over state things, to frankly not tell the truth. it's putting more and more pressure on republicans on the hill, particularly those who care about national security. that statement from senator bob corker, graham. this is a very serious issue for the republicans. this is terrorism, islamic state and national security and it's a republican president who's doing this. >> and when rex tillerson put out a statement disputing this report but a senior state department officials tell cnn that he didn't know about it. they learned about the statement from cnn and were left scrambling as the former state
department spokesman, what do you make of that? >> it's very unusual. i can't remember a single time working for secretary kaerry or two prior to that where we didn't have a hand in it, it wasn't staffed, well coordinated, both within the building and across the river at the white house. i've talked to some colleagues at state. the white house specifically wanted to put out all three statements at the same time to look like a very cohees rv communications approach and in the speed to do that, they didn't do all the staffing you would normally do with the rest of the building and at least the communications staff. i think this continues to speak to the dysfunction at the state house as well. >> why would they reach out if the president didn't do what the report says? >> hard to say. i'm kind of where jim is on this. their denials are not full
denials. they're sifrmmply denying thing that story's never said. >> is this an attempt to confuse the public that they may get confused by the details and think it's a full throat dd nile of a report that it's not? >> i think it's an attempt to get the temperature down on this. it's ironic. when you put your national security advisor out in front of cameras, you're elevating it and even though the statement seemed to try to deflate it. i think it was trying to take the air out of the story as quickly and efficiently as they could. that's another reason i suspect he didn't take any questions. >> before these reports, the meeting was already raising red flags last week because it was day after the president fired the fbi director, jim comey, which he later admitted was because of russia. he admitted in the interview
with lester holt and a russian photographer was included but not u.s. media. are these the kind of optics vladimir putin wanted when he interfered in the election? >> you forget something that happened 72 hours ago but in the span of less than a week, president fires james comey. for he admits later the russian investigation, he wants to draw it to a close. then he invites the russian foreign minister and ambassador, who remember it's conversations with that ambassador that got his previous national security officer fired mike flynn. then he gives classified information to russia and this after it was found russia interfered in the election process. all of this has to -- let's just
raise those questions higher. to raise questions about why the president doesn't look at this country as his entire intelligence community does as a threat. >> and don't forget the attorney general requds himself from the russia investigation, devin nunes. every day there seems to be something. we're talking about classified information. the election wasn't that long ago though it seems like ages ago. this candidate slammed her for her alleged handling of classified information for which she was never indicted for. watch this. >> we can't hand over our government to someone whose deepest, darkest secrets may be thin hands of our enemies. i don't think it's safe to have hillary clinton be briefed on national security because the word will get out.
>> we can't have someone in the oval office who doesn't understand the meaning of the word confed ngsal or classified. >> and then he tweeted this "crooked hillary and her team were careless in their handling of sensitive highly classified information not fit." how does this compare? >> the key words are "not fit." there could be this huge dark conspiracy and somehow donald trump is in line with russia. there's no proof of that and i don't personally believe it but it's his temperament. the reports he can't stand the criticism, that comey is talking about russia so he fires him. he's bragging with the russia ambassador, fights with the australian prime minister on the phone. it's the president himself. i mean more than anyone else and his fitness. >> and always putting up sound
bites from something that donald trump, the candidate or donald trump the president said, which directly contradicts something he has done in the moment. every time, every single time. >> listen, it makes it harder for him to be credible when he pushes back against these things. the issue with hillary clinton's emails were could by using this private server that information could have been used by a foreign power? in this case you have an active sharing of classified information with a hostile power face to face in the oval office. not good. it's not like the russian husband to hack into his email, he gave them the information voluntarily. >> should this deinvestments be part of the investigation into president trump or then candidate trump's campaign? >> i don't know if -- we have three now investigations going on. but i think it needs to be carefully looked into and
scrutinized. and damage control needs to be done if it hasn't already. i think it's important for people to keep this in context. we have three investigations into russia's involvement into our election process. we are in odds with syria and certainly over ukrain. and we have a president who doesn't appear to have a careful nuance to understanding the information and the intelligence that he's getting, if he's even getting it every day. >> when we come back, much more on our breaking news tonight. the president shares highly classified information with the russians. how could moscow use what they've learned? you don't let anything
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and learn more about our unlimited mileage warranty, only at your authorized dealer. mercedes-benz. the best or nothing. our breaking news tonight reports president trump shared highly classified information with russian officials in the oval office last week. two people knowledgeable confirm with cnn. i want to bring in a senior investigative reporter and a former department of homeland security official. good evening to both of you. how damaging is this, michael? >> well, if this is true, it's colossally dameniaging. i spoke to an ex-cia officer this evening and said what do you make of this and they said whoever gave us this intelligence isn't going to give us anymore of this intelligence if this is true.
what they're hanging on to is while he did not disclose sources or methods, that's not -- it's the information -- >> hold on. explain that. because they're saying they didn't reveal sources and methods. that's not what the report says. explain what the report says. >> when it comes to intelligence, you can give a certain scenario. you can say we have credible intelligence that isis is looking to hit a western city or a commercial airline or something like that and the russians, because they have their own intelligence gathering method can try and piece together how the americans know this. sources and methods are distinct from raw information or credible information. to give you an analogy. when the dni came out with this report saying they have concluded with high confidence that russians hacked the dnc.
what they did not disclose was sources and methods. we don't know how u.s. intelligence knows this because then they would allow the russians into their intelligence gathering methods. so whatever donald trump said -- and by the way for u.s. officials to leak this to the press -- and this is the other thing my ex-cia source said, indicates a complete level offing a ruivation. this is a case in which the commander in chief might have possibly blown an active intelligence operation. if not, then hung out his own intelligence community to dry in the event that the russians are able to now blow this. >> and in your response, so is this white house in their response being too cute because
they know they're denying something not even in the report. >> they may be and they may be trying to proterct the intelligence relationship they have with the country trump may have blown the relationship with. so they want to minimize the impact. and i get that from them but the notion intelligence agents would notify the washington post that not only this happened but remember the second piece and amazing piece is that then there's a scrambling after that meeting to notify the intelligence agencies that this had happened so they can begin to notify our nato allies or whoever it was and to protect what assets we have and what intelligence gathering resources we have going on because the most important thing here is we all know over the last week there has been these growing rumors about this sort of -- i don't want to say specific --
but highly credible concern about the laptops and was the united states going to extend the laptop ban. so we know there are serious intelligence gathering going on and out of the blue something shared with the it russians and i can't explain that. it's the casualness about his own job and about his responsibilities as president that is just -- it's hard to just be able to explain it anymore. if i just giver him the best of is a serious job that he wanted. >> code word information, julia. that's what the washington post said on islamic state. how secretive is it? >> it's one of the highest intelligence designations for information that would be kept exclusive even within your own intelligence agency. you may have such a deskreet
group of people working on one small operation, one small cell, that they're not going to share that information with a larger isis group or with the defense intelligence agencies or the defense department or homeland security. that information would go to the national security advisor, especially if it was an imminent investigation and if for some reason that investigation gets to trump. and that may include -- we know that country x has an asset in isis. and that asset is highly vulinablenerable but willing to share information with us and something that's casual as that said to the russians then we'll unleash a series of responses by other countries who do not have our best interest in mind. . >> michael said at least at the very least our intelligence officials in the white house tried to minimize the damage to what the president did in the oval office. so is leaking this to the
washington post, does that further damage u.s. security? >> no. the intelligence community is trying to protect itself because if this whole thing is exploded or the operation goes awry, they want to make it known this is because the president of the united states gave up the goods to the russians. one of the other things in the washington post article i found rather compelling is this is information so sensitive we did not share it with our allies. there's some the u.s. has which it does not trust completely because they have been penetrated by countries such as russia, namely france, germany. these are not part of the so-called five is where you don't spy on you, we don't spy on you arrangement. the reason we didn't share this intelligence with those allies was for the precise reason we didn't want the russians to get ahold of it but that's all gone because the president just
shared it in the oval office -- and remember identified as a top intelligence spy master enwashington d.c. this is no light matter. i mean you're giving the keys of the kingdom to moscow center here. >> and one thing on the intelligence side, we are a country that is actually good at intelligence gathering. we share with other countries not as sophisticated. so they're only as strong as we are. so the weaker we become in terms of capacity to get intelligence from any of our allies, those other countries become weaker. that includes a country like canada, which is highly dependent on us for intelligence. it's not just us that's going to be impacted, other countries will be impacted by this. there's a casualness about the sharing of this information. it's just jaw dropping. these are the russians.
i don't know how more we can say it. >> i have a big sigh. this is unreal. it truly is unbelievable. but i just want to know did he play the president? by buttering him up? >> i don't think he had to. president trump's twitter feed is a gold mine for any hostile foreign intelligence service. you don't need exclusive access. he is sort of cream cheese for a foreign spy service. so for them to come there and this is a day after the
president fired james comey over seeing a investigation that might have included culusollusi with the russian government and who does he invite? one of the most soviet style russian diplomats, kislyak, someone jeff sessions met with. they joke was james comey fired? i had no idea. get out of here. they're trolling the united states and the president is allowing them to. >> very quickly and as michael knows, the consequence of this is isis knows it's been exposed. so two things will happen. it will either delay what it's planning on doing, which would be good or it would speed up and that's the truly sort of scary aspect of it. i don't mean to sound alarms, it's just we know how terrorist
organizations respond to being infiltrated. and so we'll just have to monitor it. >> is he competent to be in the oval office? that's a good question everyone should be asking themselves tonight. >> that's your next panel. >> how members of the president's own party are responding to the breaking news. one describing the white house as "a downward spiral. ".
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rngts republicans on capitol hill reacting to reports that president trump shared classified information with russian officials. the speaker saying he hopes for a full explanation from the administration. and republican strategist, also with me a former cia operative. so good to have you on this evening. both sides are already criticizing president trump. a key ally during the campaign was senator bob corker. and he says tonight they're in a downward spiral right now j to come to grips with all that's
happening. the chaos from the lack of discipline create as worrisome environment. are you worried? >> anybody who's looking at this reasonably, don is concerned. everything that has happened is concerninging. everything over the last week is concerning. but i guess i would urge and encourage us not to, through trump derangement syndrome, go to 100. let's be measured about this. this is deeply troubling but you're not going to see republicans in mass pile upon the president but what's still happening is the senate's trying to get a health care bill passed without the president. what you're starting to see the republicans pulling away from the president and despite him get policies passed because the president doesn't care about the details. they're doing their work, hunkering down and trying to get their work done despite the executives. >> they're ignoring everything
he's doing. you said zero to 100. can they ignore this? >> this could jeopardize all the progress they have any hope of making. ignore it. chaos is happening in the white house. the reason you're not seeing every republican call out the president is because they still want to get things done. >> this is their chance to do it. i'm going to ask you, evan. they're talking about the intelligence disclosed by the president and it says in fact an ally -- where they got the information from -- that it would cut off access if it were shared to rr widely. in this case the fear is russia could disrupt the ally's espionage efforts. how do you respond to this, former cia?
>> it's a common concern between allies that share information back and forth. there's constant bickering and concern raising about this very issue but generally you don't have the president of the united states compromising sensitive information to a foreign adversary this brazenly. and it really is cause for concern. the russians will take this information, donald trump didn't have to talk about sources or methods. but if the information was very detailed, the russians can use their knowledge and their other resources to reverse engineer the information. rit it's not certain they'll be able to do this but it's possible. i've watched the russians do it before. they may identify for example, if it's a human source, who that source is. approach that human source and say we know you're working for "x" country and you're spying on
isis. we're going to compromise you to isis and you'll be dead or you can work for us. and then they begin to work for russia as well as try to meet its other masters while trying to stay safe. it gets very complicated. but ultultimately we lose contr of an important stream of inteleand that puts americans at risk. >> shouldn't americans care about that? >> well, of course they should, don. like many things. >> so earlier you said there's no buyer's remorse among republican republicans. >> i was not saying that. >> you said no buyer's remorse among republicans. do you still stand by that statement? >> reto me the biggest developmt is there were three people in the room who have all come forward and said this story is not accurate. so if there was a car accident
and the police interviewed three eye witnesses versus three people who think they know something, they're going with the eye witnesses. >> let's do it one point at a time. what they're denying is not in the report. >> they're saying the report is false. >> but it's a report -- they're saying sources and methods never said that. so they're denying something not in the report. so there's not denial. if i say i never said you had gray hair and i deny -- >> and they deny donald trump was on the grassy knoll. >> come on, john. i think you're being disingenuous. if they're denieg something that's not in the report, how is that denial of the reported? >> they're saying as written the report that people are sourcing is wrong. they were very clear about that.
three people who were in the room. and let's be clear of one other thing. we keep alkting like he gave them launch codes to the nuclear weapon and as much as we're an adversary on many things, we're an ally with russia in the fight against isis. the only topic he shared information on is relative to the fight against isis. third of all let's also not forget that it wasn't him, but it was president obama who was caught on tape secretly telling the russians that after the election he was going to give them the store when it came to missile defense -- >> what does that have to do with sharing classified information? that's apples and oranges. they treat donald trump on russia different than anybody
else. >> if president obama was caught giving away national security secrets, i think everybody would be outraged. for someone saying give me a chance once i get into office and it was roundly criticized. so you're comparing things not necessarily comparable here. >> we have a president of the united states basically telling an enemy of us that -- >> to your knowledge did president obama ever give classified information away to our enemies? >> no. he gave away negotiating techniques to our enemies. and i don't remember seeing the -- let me jump in here. >> i don't think it's necessary. but go on. >> look, i am so tired of hearing people justify some stupid action that president trump takes by some counter claim or argument about what
happened in the past with barack obama or hillary clinton. get over it. it's not the world we're living in right now for heaven sakes. president trump is the president of the united states, he's woefully unprepared for this role, he's stepping on himself left, right and center. he doesn't care to learn the job, he's too slow on the uptake, he's sloppy and he's making mistakes left, right and center. get over this what about obama and hillary clinton. forget it. we have real interests here. >> and to cover this up and we're allies with russia in the fight against isis. so he was sharing information strategically. that is the most obtuse excuse. we are allies in name alone in that war. we are barely cooperating. >> that's not true at all. that absolutely is true. >> do not understand that there are times we're going to have to
deal with russia -- >> that is not what this is about. this is about a president who opened his mouth when he shouldn't have. he can declassify anything he wants but he was bragging with our arch enemy across the table. let's call a spaed a spaed here. >> and why attorney general jeff sessions is in hot water over the firing of james comey. ♪ somewhere, inside each of us, there's a pro. ♪ it's not always easy to summon your pro.
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sources confirm to cnn that president trump shared highly classified information with russian ofilss. let's discuss now. a former white house ethics lawyer and page pate. thank you for comingen opyou don't think the president broke the law but he used bad judgment. how specifically and how bad? >> i don't think there's any question he used bad judgment. the question is how damaging it's going to be to the country. if anybody else had done with what he did in connection with meeting with foreign
representatives and leaking classified information they would be put in jail but fofrpinately for the president these two laws that govern the release of classified information basically let the president do whatever it wants to do with classified information but it's horrible mistake of judgment because the information he's putting throughout can not just indanger american citizens and really put our relationships with people and government that give us information at great risk. >> you saw in the last segment r there are people defending this. is this defensible or indefensible? >> all i could say is when i was chief for the bush administration we made it very clear how critically important it was not to reveal a classified information to anyone without a security clearance and it would have been a joke if i'd said and don't release it to the
russians. i mean, this is just ludicrous and of course the law will allow the president to do this legally just like he doesn't have the financial conflict of interest statute that applies to him that applies to the rest of the entire executive branch and he can run around saying he's above the law and he can do this, that and the other thing and he can give out classified information to the russians but at some point people are going to get tired of it and this is putting our country's national security at risk. the president should only be sharing information to foreign powers only after he's been advised it's in our interest to share the classified information and russians of all people. that's like trusting bernie may dauf with your money. it makes no sense what's going on here. >> listen, all of this happens
along the back drop of the president having fired the fbi directorer james comey in part because of the recommendation of the attorney general repeatedly recused himself and he disclosed contacts. did attorney general jeff sessions recuse his promise by doing this? >> there's the ethical violations for trying to parse words as the head of the department of justice about whether or not what you really meant was i'm going to only look at things if there are personnel related issues, even if they overwhelmingly, actually touch on campaign related issues. remember the justification for the recusal was that he wasn't going to talk about anything to do with the campaigns or the russian investigation and instead he has stated it was
more of a personnel issue and he has every right as the head of the department to insure that his chief investigator is someone credible among his ranks, among the people he works at the fbi. so that's his excuse there. but remember donald trump has consistently given many but different explanations about why he chose to terminate james comey. one of them being the russia investigation. and trying to in some way stop what he considered a conspiracy. if jeff sessions was aware that was even one of the motivations behind trump's firing of comey, then he has not only violated ethically his duty to recuse himself but also perhaps in the obstruction world to say he knows of a reason somebody's trying to undermine investigation and he played a part. but really important is the back drop here. the same day we have a traveling ban argument in the ninth circuit where the president's
own men are saying listen, the national security issue gives me supreme deference. defer to my judgment on national security grounds. it'ser the same day we learn he had disregarded national security of the nation or is acteding in a way to undermine it. it's a very, very -- position here. >> i want you to remind for our viewers what attorney general jeff sessions said when it came out he had not disclosed all of his meetings with the russians. >> i have now decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matter relating in any way to the campaigns for president of the united states. >> could he be in serious legal or ethical trouble? >> i don't about legal trouble because i don't know who's going to hold him accountable? obviously congress can't do much about it. they can't remove him from office. but i think what he said was a prom thoos american people that
he's not going to have anything to do with the russian investigation and i have no idea how you could possibly be a part of evaluating a new fbi director and you're not discussing the russian investigation and make sure your new director can move forward is going to have the proper resources for that investigation. so i find it impossible for the attorney general to be involved in that process, even from the personnel side without getting ininvolved with questions relating to that investigation and without violating his priorer promise. >> thank you all. when we come back, is president trump's staff secretly getting him fake news? then there are moments it becomes clear, ♪ together always was, and always will be, a better way. ♪ this is a story about mail and packages. and it's also a story about people.
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i'm dr. kelsey mcneely and some day you might be calling me an energy farmer. ♪ energy lives here. fmy doctor recommended ibgard. abdominal pain and bloating. now i'm in control of my ibs. nonprescription ibgard - calms the angry gut. the white house in turmoil fonlt in the weak of bombshell reports that president trump shared highly classified flfgs with russian officials how the white house chiefs of staff define every presidency and shane goe maker white house correspondent for politico i'm glad to have you on. both of you are experts on the inner workings of the white house. chris let me start with you. the white house skanling tonight to sort of contain reports to get their -- the come up with a
message about this crisis that the president's -- the president's own making. >> yeah. >> can a white house function like this continually. >> this white house is the most dysfunctional in modern history that have before tonight's disclosures. it's really a white house coming apart at the seams. and one of the reasons for that is that this president has not learned what all of his predecessors learned the hard way sometimes. which is that you cannot govern effectively without empowering a white house chief of staff as first among eelks to execute your agenda and most importantly to tell what you you don't want to hear. you know every president needs a grownup in the room who can say no, you can't talk to the russians about that stuff. and no, you know you can't go out and tell flagrant lies and yes we've got to be on the same page. with the truth. and if you want to use your twitter account that's great. but you're going to have to run it by me first.
>> shane. >> yeah, i think there is no question that president trump has resisted structures of any kind and restrictions on his behave he doesn't want to be told he can't tweet, can't go do things inform chris is it abry light reince priebus as chief of staff even in his announcement of the position he was given coequal steakist with steve bannon second in the press release. from the get go there was tuition of power in the white house there was incredibly facsimile white house it's not clear everyone is pulling in the same direction as the president pulling for their own agendas versus his. >> it's interesting -- interesting, shane, because in an article in politico you explain how president trump gets fake news sometimes comes -- sometimes comes from staff? >> yes so priebus his goal is to be the gat gate keeper for trump he doesn't want gates at all he wants an open oval office. priebus tried to put in place a
system by which the president gets paperwork gets news clippings. the problem is lots of staff are going through the side door. pressie fascinating kay tee mcfarland deputy national security adviser recently gave trump a copy of two time magazine covers one supposedly from the 1970s on a global ice age with you more recently talking about global warming the one from the 70s is a fake part of internet hoax but she print to do out hand to do the president he got worked up about it before staff intervened mr. president this isn't true because there is no systems in place because priebus doesn't actually control the agenda and the paper flow to the president he is at risk of getting things sometimes aren't true and again as you see, he is direct line to kmungting through twitter. >> he often reacts to those things and maybe this one was caught but there are others not caught that he reacts to chris. and it -- and many of his supporters believe them as fact when it is in fact fake news. >> yeah i mean one of the
critical things that the chief of staff has to do is be the honest broker of information. teeing up information honestly on every side of a difficult issue making sure only the toughest decisions get in to the president. the most important asset any administration has is the president's time. and you know this is clearly a president whose completely undisciplined presidents come into office with a kind of had you brings and they think they have all the answers it's kind of like alcoholism every president hits rock bottom at some point. bill clinton went a year and a half before he learned that he had to empower a white house chief in the form of leon panetta who came in and turned the clinton white house around. jimmy carter took two and a half years to realize he needed to appoint a chief of staff. it not clear that donald trump would recognize rock bottom if he saw it. >> yeah shane does the staff matter or is it all good with
the man at the top in the white house. >> to some extent it goes to the man at the top. you talk last week he had frustrations about the communications plan around his firing of the fbi director. but it's hard to blame the communications staff when the ultimate story is the president decided to fire the fbi director who was investigating some associates from the campaign. they can't spin thatway in way makes it positive story. >> he says you can't listen to them because they don't always have the information he does. >> he went and undermined them they went and said it was the deputy attorney general who is recommendation moved the president to make the action. two dates later he said no i already decided when i got the recommendation. not only that it was my decision and. >> had to do with russia as well. >> thank you all i appreciate that that's it for us tonight thanks for watching see you right back here tomorrow. labels, and signs reminding everyone to think balance before