It seems that President-elect Donald Trump and the intelligence community are getting off to a rocky start. As Trump’s inauguration approaches, the tension between the President-elect and the leadership of the intelligence community has continued to grow.
A few weeks ago, Trump bashed the intelligence community when they released their report confirming that the Russian government was involved in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee. He said he didn’t believe the CIA’s information was valid. He cited their faulty reporting on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to support his claim.
Later, after meeting with intelligence officials, he changed his tune. In a press conference on Wednesday, he admitted that he now believed that the report was correct.
Then, Trump attacked the intelligence community over a report that implied that Moscow possesses information that could be damaging to him. This dossier was produced by a former MI6 agent who was conducting opposition research on Trump.
The dossier stated that the Kremlin would use this information to blackmail the President-elect. It also claimed that the Trump campaign collaborated with the Russians in order to win the election. The contents of this report were published on Buzzfeed, who have taken sharp criticism for publishing the information.
Apparently, this dossier had been “floating” around in the major news organizations and the intelligence community. It hadn’t been released because of the fact that the claims made in the report couldn’t be verified.
In a series of tweets, Trump denied the veracity of the report.
“It now turns out that the phony allegations against me were put together by my political opponents and a failed spy afraid of being sued…”
He excoriated both the intelligence community and the media for publishing fake news. He’s probably right. The statements in the report have not been verified. There are many who question its legitimacy.
In a phone call with the President-elect, National Intelligence Director James Clapper expressed his “profound dismay” about the dossier being published. Clapper denied that the intelligence community was the source of the leak. He also did not make any judgments about the accuracy of the claims being made in the report.
So what’s really going on here?
Is there are a war brewing between Trump and the intelligence community? Are our intelligence agencies trying to get back at President-elect Trump for his continued criticism?
In an appearance on the Rachel Maddow show, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that Trump’s attacks on the intelligence community could have consequences.
“Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday to get back at you. So, even for a practical, supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he is being really dumb to do this.”
If the intelligence community is retaliating against Trump, this could be a huge issue. At the same time, Trump’s undermining of the intelligence community could also be damaging. Yes, our intelligence agencies make mistakes. But they are clearly not incompetent.
It’s a bad idea for a president to continually criticize the intelligence community. It’s like publicly shaming our military when they carry out an operation.
If Trump continuously expresses skepticism with the information gathered by our intelligence, it could cause people to question his own legitimacy. No previous President has done this before. There’s a reason for that. Our intelligence agencies know far more about what they’re doing than a civilian does.
The President-elect seems to believe that he knows more about what’s going on in the world than the CIA. That’s clearly not true.
The worst thing about this is Trump’s tendency to make his beliefs about the intelligence community public. If a President has an issue with intelligence, he should discuss it directly with the agency. He shouldn’t take to Twitter to accuse them of being like “Nazi Germany.” It’s just a bad idea.
Presidents need to work with our intelligence agencies- not blast them on social media when there is a disagreement. It’s one thing to lash out against the media on Twitter. As a matter of fact, sometimes it’s pretty awesome. But doing this to the CIA or other intelligence agencies is ridiculous.
At the same time, intelligence officials shouldn’t retaliate against public officials. The CIA is not its own government. They serve the people. When they use their power to harm our elected officials, they are hurting our country. They’re disrupting our government. They cause Americans to lose even more confidence in the people that lead us.
Hopefully, the leak wasn’t committed by our intelligence agencies. The last thing we need is to have our White House and intelligence community at odds with one another.
Going forward, I hope that the President-elect will learn to get along with our intelligence officials. The relationship between the White House and intelligence is way too important.