Donald Trump Vs. The CIA: Round One
Trump is already at odds with the intelligence community, whose advice is supposed to guide him in office
As with so many things Trump-related, trying to make sense of the President-Elect’s stance in relation to his latest enemy (the Central Intelligence Agency of the nation he will soon lead) is simultaneously challenging — and all too easy.
Less than 48 hours after his transition team issued a statement invoking one of the Bush II era’s biggest intelligence failures (the one that led to an invasion/war Trump initially at least halfheartedly supported), PEOTUS Donald Trump appeared on Fox News Sunday for further “clarification.”
Kicking off with the latest news of Russian interference in America’s democratic processes (with the CIA’s now much stronger accusation of benefits to Trump), Fox’s Chris Wallace asked Twitter’s #1 conspiracy-theory retweeter if he believed the accusations. Let’s break down Trump’s initial response verbatim:
“I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s just another excuse.”
By whom (and for what)? By the CIA — or by all those pesky sore-loser Democrats who still have sour grapes over the fact that their candidate only won the popular vote by a measly 2.8 million? The CIA is doing the accusing; the idea that the current Langley crowd would go to such lengths to make such an “excuse” is another Trump head-scratcher.
“I don’t believe it. I don’t know why…”
(The sharp-eared listener assumes the PEOTUS does not mean he does not know why he doesn’t “believe it.”)
“… and I think it’s just, you know, they talked about all sorts of things.”
Does “they” refer to CIA agents, various Democratic opponents, or perhaps the media? To keep listening for clarification:
“Every week it’s another excuse. We had a massive landslide victory, as you know, in the Electoral College. I guess the final numbers are now at 306, and she, you know, down to a very low number. No, I don’t believe that at all.”
So the source of the President-Elect’s disbelief in the latest CIA report about possible Russian hacking is his faith in the mandate he’s received as one of four (not counting John Quincy Adams) presidents to only achieve Electoral College victory.
After delivering some tidbits of his knowledge on the cyber-crime phenomenon of hacking (nutshell: could-be-anybody) and after further Wallace prompting, at the 1:39 mark, the President-Elect makes his partisan paranoia clear:
“I’m not sure they [the CIA] put it out. I think the Democrats are putting it out, because they suffered one of the greatest defeats in the history of politics in this country, and, frankly, I think they’re putting it out. And it’s ridiculous. We ought to get back to making America great again, which is what we’re going to do…” Etc.
Sure, it’s not the most outrageous thing he’s ever said — but you heard it right: the President-Elect clearly thinks the CIA (like any other entity or individual that might give him a headache) has been railroaded and co-opted by the Usual Suspects. He then alludes to the “great confusion” and “disputing” of the report, the fact that “certain groups don’t necessarily agree.” What does he mean by that? He means (brace yourself for this breaking development) that the FBI and CIA are indeed at odds on interpretation of the evidence of Russian (possibly Kremlin) hacking of Democratic (and Republican!) party emails.
This is the part where you fix yourself a(nother) stiff drink, and ask yourself how you feel about the PEOTUS’ powers of “unification.”
And there’s no doubt at all the division will continue. Former CIA Counter-terrorism Deputy Director Paul Pillar says of Trump: “Given his proclivity for revenge combined with his notorious [sic] thin skin, this threatens to result in a lasting relationship of distrust and ill will between the president and the intelligence community.”
How averse to listening to advice from the duly-appointed intelligence community is the President-Elect, currently? Averse enough that a documentary filmmaker on a late-night talk show literally begs him to regularly attend the briefings any other POTUS or PEOTUS would attend…
The Trump justification/excuse? “I don’t have to be told — you know, I’m, like, a smart person. I don’t have to be told the same thing, in the same words, every single day for the next — eight years. Could be eight years, but — eight years. I don’t need that.”
Setting aside, for now, the question of what the American people need for eight years (and setting aside crystal balls), one can always at least count on the clarity of history. American history teaches us (whether you believe in conspiracy theories — as most Trump supporters do — or not) that the last time a US president openly went to war with the CIA, it did not end well for him.