For any would-be authoritarian strongman, a lesson of history is that you can’t do it by yourself. To accumulate power and vanquish your opponents, you need powerful elements of the state—such as the police, the armed forces, senior politicians, and the judiciary—to go along with your designs, or at least to stand aside as you do as you will.
So, does it make sense to piss off all the intelligence agencies? Yeah, Cassidy doesn't think so either.
Trump made an enemy of the intelligence community. Many intelligence professionals had already been suspicious of him—because of his disregard for facts, and because of his embrace of the retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, the National Security Adviser designate, whom some people in Washington regard as a conspiracy theorist. But this latest episode was something far more direct and personal. Never before has a President or President-elect spoken so dismissively of the C.I.A.
I suppose not to mention that Russia and Communism have been our enemies and the target of these agencies for the last 70 years and now Trump is being led by the nose by Putin.
Appearing on “CBS This Morning,” Kellyanne Conway sidestepped the question of whether her boss accepts as fact that Russian hackers targeted U.S. political institutions and individuals, but declared that “absolutely, he trusts the intelligence community.” Seeking to shift the goalposts, Conway also said, “We don’t want foreign interference in our politics, but we also don’t want politics to interfere with our intelligence. That is what is happening now.”
Accusing them of being politicized is no better than calling them incompetent. Michael Hayden would agree.
How will this affect the new president’s relationship with the intelligence community?
A lot. And not well.
First is the question of how the incoming administration values intelligence. On Sunday, the president-elect again rejected the Russian role, adding that he was smart enough that he didn’t want or need a daily briefing.
This creates more than hurt feelings. The intelligence community makes great sacrifices, and CIA directors send people into harm’s way to learn things otherwise unavailable. And directors have seen stars carved on the agency’s memorial wall because of it. If what is gained is not used or wanted or is labeled as suspect or corrupt — by what moral authority does a director put his people at risk?
This is going to be must see TV.
More immediately, what will CIA Director-designate Mike Pompeo say during his confirmation hearings about this? He is not yet director, so he can fairly deflect any questions on the substance of this debate, for now. But every TV set at Langley will be turned on during his confirmation hearings, and his most important audience will not be the senators on the dais. His future workforce will be looking for clues about his willingness to defend them against charges of incompetence and politicization simply for saying what their craft tells them to be true.
Not you too, Michael Gerson.
Trump's blanket attack on the intelligence community for incompetence - as though he was still going after "Little Marco" or "Lying Ted" - is an insanely dangerous antic that materially undermines American security. Given the extraordinary range of threats faced by America - Chinese provocations in the South China Sea, Russian attempts to dominate neighboring countries, North Korea's progress toward nuclear-tipped missiles that could reach California - a mutual trust between the president and American intelligence services is essential. That relationship has already been seriously damaged.