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Trump’s Intelligence Deficit

by Hannah Gais

Feb 16, 2017 | Politics


Did President Barack Obama set Donald Trump up for four years of infighting with American intelligence agencies?

Obama, in one of his final acts before leaving office, took a hard line regarding allegations of Russian involvement in the U.S. presidential campaign. In addition to calling upon the Office of the National Intelligence Director to produce a comprehensive report on Russian electoral interference, the administration implemented new sanctions and gave the boot to over 30 Russian diplomats.

The DNI’s report, “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections” also set Trump up. Though the final, unclassified document is a mere 25 pages, it summarizes findings from the National Security Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Central Intelligence Agency regarding the scope, rationale, and implications of Russia’s hacking during the presidential election. We are told that the “influence campaign” sought to undermine public faith in the electoral process, that the Russian government overwhelmingly sought to denigrate Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton while expressing “a clear preference” for Trump, and that the entire operation was overseen by President Putin.

For Trump, who has referred to the investigation as a “political witch hunt”—a claim echoed by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov—the intelligence community’s certainty regarding Russian involvement is a major thorn in his new administration’s side. Trump’s comments put him at odds with numerous Republican lawmakers, many of whom acknowledged Russia’s involvement and called for a forceful U.S. response. And Trump and his staff’s antagonistic stance toward the mainstream narrative surrounding the hacks pitted him up against the national security apparatus—even before he took office.

Trump’s belligerence toward the intelligence community prompted by allegations of Russian involvement in the election has raised talk of restructuring and reform. According to a report in The Wall Street Journal from early January, Trump’s team aims to “restructure and pare back” the DNI as it has become “bloated and politicized.” A similar plan is allegedly in place for the CIA.

Spats between the White House and intelligence agencies are hardly new, though in decades past these feuds tended to be on policy grounds. Trump’s, however, is more personal. Despite months of asserting he would challenge the results of the “rigged” election if he lost, he appears to consider the investigation as a personal affront. The DNI is careful to note that Russian involvement did not necessarily sway the election, but Trump’s wounded ego and narcissistic pride make such details easy to ignore.

While it remains to be seen whether such changes in intelligence agencies occur—the Trump team has denied having any interest in “reforms”—the chatter itself is foreboding. Before Trump set foot in the White House, he began his own campaign of chaotic retribution. Now, the question is not whether he continues to wage war with the intelligence establishment—it is how far he is willing to go.


Hannah Gais is associate digital editor at The Washington Spectator.

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  1. So the Spectator joins the mob of liberals and progressives who are determined to blame Russia rather than examine their own failures and those of the Democratic Party, meantime ignoring the lack of evidence for Russian hacking.

    The German Intelligence community has just undercut this pretty scenario, but you would not know it from “progressive” media in the US.


    • Your links are garbage a typical Trumptard hack. Who gives a crap about German intel, why would you. You and the rest of trumptards wait for your marching orders like good minion should.

    • By the way, the article is about GERMANY you fool. See your so focused on trying to prove that your leader is somehow innocent. Yet he invited Russia to hack, what president does that. Oh, an illegitimate one might, but certainly not a fairly elected one. Trump reissues his numbers every time he opens his gape, he does this for the same reasons all authoritarians do, especially illegitimate ones. Trump feels that if he keeps repeating his assertions that they will somehow be true. I just hope that no real crisis where we would need a reasoned steady hand on the wheel, not a orange man who has no concept of how to govern or use diplomacy. His legacy will be far worse than Nixon could ever hope for.

  2. Oh, this is about Trump’s relationship with the spy agencies. When I saw the headline, I thought someone had gotten a quantitative handle on his lack of mental ability….

  3. Well, the title of this article is well reported comment on his war with the Intelligence community, but to me it is also his abysmal lack of intelligence, common sense, decency – in other words, his total lack of human intelligence needed in this powerful office.

  4. Why is a so-called attempt by Russia to influence an American election any worse than corporations (national and otherwise) actually influencing an election via SuperPac contributions.
    A pox on all their houses.

  5. The Spectator was using the Russian hacking and subsequent tiraid by Mr Trumptard, demonstrates his inability to understand how government works. This is a man who thinks there are 8 articles of the constitution, that seems to think he knows why soldiers “don’t fight”. Yet he actively doged the draft because of “bone spurs”. When Trumplicans are done destroying this country those who propelled him into office will have a whole different out look on life truth, and those who we elect to represent our interests.


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