Donald Trump, at war with intelligence

Yesterday morning, FBI Director Christopher Wray, CIA Director Gina Haspel, and Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Their testimony was timed to coincide with the public release of the annual “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community,” which was authored by Coates, with the input of every other U.S. intelligence agency. This report, it’s important to note, contradicted President Trump on several fronts. First and foremost, no mention was made, in the entire 42 pages of the report, of a terrorist threat on our southern border which would necessitate the building of a wall. Furthermore, in the words of the New York Times, the report makes clear that, according to the consensus of our intelligence community, “North Korea is unlikely to give up its nuclear stockpiles, and Iran is not, for now, taking steps necessary to make a bomb, directly contradicting the rationale of two of President Trump’s foreign policy initiatives.” Additionally, the authors of the report make it clear that the most significant threat facing our nation today is the cyber threat posed by Russia and China, which, according to the threat assessment, were now “more aligned than at any point since the mid-1950s.”

Here, with more on the cyber threat posed by the likes of Russia, China, and Iran, is an excerpt from Politico.

In a worldwide threat assessment to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats wrote that competitors such as Russia, China and Iran “probably already are looking to the 2020 U.S. elections as an opportunity to advance their interests.”

In his statement, he predicted that these countries “will use online influence operations to try to weaken democratic institutions, undermine U.S. alliances and partnerships and shape policy outcomes in the United States and elsewhere.”

Furthermore, he said, they’ll “refine their capabilities and add new tactics as they learn from each other’s experiences, suggesting the threat landscape could look very different in 2020 and future elections.”

Donald Trump, as you might imagine, replied by tweet, calling those behind this global threat assessment “naive,” adding later that they “should go back to school.” Here is Trump’s tweet, as well as the heated response it got from former CIA Director John Brennan.

Interestingly, as all of this was playing out, the Financial Times was reporting that, according to high-level Russian sources, Donald Trump met secretly with Vladimir Putin during the 2018 G20 summit in Buenos Aires, accompanied solely by his wife, “with no translator or note-taker from the US side to record the dialogue between the leaders.” This, as I’m sure you can appreciate, is not even remotely normal.

While Lou Dobbs on Fox News is arguing that the role of the U.S. intelligence community should not be to deliver accurate, unbiased intelligence, but to provide intelligence that supports the worldview of the President, I’m starting to get the sense that others on the right have had about enough. According to new poll by the Washington Post and ABC News, 1 in 3 Republican and Republican-leaning voters would like for the GOP to nominate “someone other” than Trump in 2020, and Republican Senator Susan Collins is making news today for refusing to say whether or not she’d support a Trump reelection bid… Now here’s that Lou Hobbs segment.

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  1. Wolf Blitzer by proxy
    Posted January 30, 2019 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    After US intelligence chiefs disagreed w/ @realDonaldTrump on national security issues, he tweeted today perhaps they “should go back to school.” In 2015, he said: “I know more about ISIS than the generals. Believe me.” He’s also said: “I know more about technology than anybody.”

  2. wobblie
    Posted January 30, 2019 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    I primarily come to this web site because we have no local newspaper of any kind any more. MM regularly weighs in on the national news, and of course local news when available. The commentary of which I regularly weigh in on. I’ll say this, statements by the US Intelligence community are statements that I regularly do not believe. The US Intelligence community are masters of misinformation and misdirection. They allowed us to be lied into the Iraq war, and prior to that they engaged in numerous illegal activities within the US. The Church committee is the only time our elected representatives have ever had the guts to challenge them. Personally I believe they engage in rampant lawlessness and blackmail and manipulate our representative ala J. Edgar, but on a much more insidious level. If you believe them without high skepticism, you are simply a tool. In other words they are a LOW credible source.

  3. John Brown
    Posted January 30, 2019 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    Wobblie, I’ll give you that the Intel pros have done some evil shit. But the difference was that there was competent-ish coordination with an administration and usually a unified mission. I rarely agreed with those mission goals, once found out, but at least the US was demonstrating an ability to project coordinated power. The system functioned, for what it’s worth. Now the system is completely broke. The administration is rudderless, rolling in the trough, drifting towards rocks. And a bunch of cult45s think that’s an improvement. I don’t. It makes us weak and vulnerable, which will lead to challenges and subsequent conflicts.

  4. Posted January 30, 2019 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    Let’s see how this analogy goes over… Generally speaking, I’m not what I’d call a huge “rah, rah,” flag-waving patriot when it comes to the US military. I know why it’s structured like it is, how it operates, and why it’s necessary. I’m not an anti-military person. It was good, in certain ways, for my father and other people in my family, as I’ve noted here before, and I suspect the world is a better place because of us and our NATO allies. But I’m not blind to the realities of what goes on and why. [See Dick Cheney’s private meeting with energy industry executives before our war wth Iraq.] With that said, though, I’d be the first one to cheer for the soldiers who fought Hitler, a few of whom were my friends and relatives. And I think it’s similar here. I know the history of the CIA. I’ve read the books on what happened in Cuba and in other parts of the world. I know there’s a lot of evil, and I support an active press to keep them honest, but that doesn’t mean that, in times of serious threat, I don’t thank god for their existence. I guess you could say, “It’s complicated.” But, yeah, I love Robert Mueller for standing up and pushing this case forward over the objections of Republicans.

  5. Wobblie
    Posted January 31, 2019 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    The question of who is threatening us? defending themselves from our aggression is the key. I know MM believes the Russians are our enemy. How about Venezuela? Despite Congress refusing to sanction our involvement in Syria we have thousands of troops and mercenaries fighting there. 18 years of war in Afganistan. Our interventions in just this century account for hundreds of thousands. Our representatives have abdicated any control over foreign policy to the President except when he tries to etracate ourselves from one of our many wars. Are you teaching Arlo how to be a drone pilot yet? What’s another 18 to 20 years of war Who cares any more?

  6. John Brown
    Posted January 31, 2019 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Wobblie, I fully support creating a global Ecotopia. In the meantime, the system that’s evolved seems to be one of nations, lead by their oligarchs, in cut throat competition for resources and consumers. The US just happens to be the 800 lb gorilla in this competition, and its projection of power in the form of constant skirmishes has become a form of “stability”. And I’ll admit there are huge advantages to living in the dominant country in this system versus a subordinate one. Ask a Venezuelan about this. It’s perverted, but we’ve been free of global scale conflict for a pretty long time. Yes we have a very long way to go, but it may be that this is the best we can do with respect to minimizing the human slaughter given our primitive biology and our genetically preprogrammed tendency for interspecific competition. Asking hairless chimpanzees with really huge war clubs to never use them is a big ask. No doubt some events will occur that reflect this technological outpacing of biology and result in some strong evolutionary forces being imposed on the species and planet. The Anthropocene will definitely be one for the text books!

  7. stupid hick
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 1:06 am | Permalink

    There is no denying Trump is a cretinous and corrupt, and despicable, but to his credit, as this thoughtful commentary by Peter Beinart points out, Trump at least is transparent about his position on what “our” interests are. Ignore for a moment that Trump is pitifully stupid, and crass, and puts his own personal financial interests ahead of everything else, and behold that the intelligence report makes vague and unexplained claims about threats to undefined “US interests”. Without plainly stating what those interests are, how can the American public understand what specifically is at risk and agree why something should be considered a threat?

  8. verifyfirst
    Posted February 4, 2019 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Anything that ‘threatens” US global hegemony is, obviously, a bona fide “threat”. Duh. No need to define interests when you start and end there….

    Nice quote in the article:

    “Why should it matter to ordinary Americans whether the regime in Sanaa tilts toward the murderous theocracy in Tehran rather than the murderous theocracy in Riyadh?”

    But more concerning to me is the notion that the Intelligence Community, which spends vast resources running around accomplishing not very much, is now being looked to by so-called liberals as the great shining light on the hill, going to save Civilization from Trump, as if “Intelligence” were now a separate and legitimate branch of government all by themselves.

    And they lack even basic competancy:

  9. wobblie
    Posted February 4, 2019 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    verifyfirst, I agree with you 100%. Competency in organizations like the CIA and NSA is good for low level functionaries, but for the decision makers only one attribute counts–loyalty to the organization. Don’t know if you have ever known a CIA agent. In the 70’s I had a girl friend who’s dad had been CIA when it first started into the 60’s. He understood that his first loyalty was always to the company, who probably made sure he got that tenured faculty position at NU. They are at least as powerful in this country as the KGB ever was in the old Soviet Union.

  10. wobblie
    Posted February 4, 2019 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    In the US political culture being correct on the facts has very little to do with career advancement. Scott Ritter got it right about Iraq and WMD so he has been vilified and slandered endlessly by the establishment.

  11. John Brown
    Posted February 5, 2019 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    I’m not as certain as Verify First that US hegemony is necessarily the worst thing to come outta the 20th century. I’m not promoting it as a goal, but it is the steady state that resulted from the cold war. And in a world with enough nukes to blow everything 100 times over, we haven’t gone boom yet under this outcome. Alternatives that increase potential for global instability must be very carefully considered WRT the nuke threat.

    I hate Neocons, but they beat the hell outta unabashed fascist pirates.

One Trackback

  1. By National Emergency on February 14, 2019 at 9:41 pm

    […] border wasn’t even mentioned among the top threats being faced by our country in the recent Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community. But here we are, discussing a ridiculous border wall because our President, beset by numerous […]

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