War & Peace
Trump Infuriated Over Withheld Intelligence
President Donald Trump is reportedly infuriated by reports claiming US intelligence agencies are withholding sensitive intelligence from him because they fear the information could be leaked or compromised.
The Wall Street Journal first reported current and former intelligence officials are withholding or presenting incomplete information to the president. Sources said in some cases, officials decided not to reveal sources or methods used to gather sensitive information, including the means used to spy on foreign governments. While intelligence agencies have previously withheld information from presidents, lawmakers or other officials, the decision to do so was never motivated by concerns about the president’s trustworthiness or discretion, the WSJ’s sources claimed.
The WSJ article’s sources said their concerns are largely related to Trump’s coziness with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the close links between high-ranking administration officials and Moscow. Intelligence officials were also alarmed by Trump’s call for Russian spies to hack 2016 Democratic presidential nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails.
CBS News reports Trump was so incensed that CIA Director Mike Pompeo was not robustly refuting media reports on withheld intelligence that the president yelled at him. The incident was followed by a strongly-worded statement from Pompeo. “We are not aware of any instance when that has occurred,” he wrote of the alleged intelligence withholding. “It is CIA’s mission to provide the president with the best intelligence possible and to explain the basis for that intelligence. The CIA does not, has not, and will never hide intelligence from the president, period.” The White House also denied that Trump shouted at Pompeo. The president “did not yell at the CIA director,” a Trump spokesperson wrote Saturday in an email to CBS News.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence also denied the report of officials withholding intelligence from Trump. “Any suggestion that the US Intelligence Community is withholding information and not providing the best possible intelligence to the President and his national security team is not true,” ODNI said in a statement issued late Wednesday.
Insiders, however, have told multiple media outlets there has been a considerable “chill” in the flow of information to the White House out of fear intelligence could be compromised in the wake of an ongoing investigation into whether Trump associates coordinated with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign. Last week, the New York Times reported Trump campaign staffers and other associates had “repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials” before the election in the form of phone calls intercepted by US officials monitoring Russian intelligence. Short-lived national security adviser Mike Flynn resigned in disgrace over the contacts, raising the question of what Trump knew about the calls and whether he also lied about them. Questions also remain about whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia against Hillary Clinton, or whether the Russian government has compromising information about the president.
The New York Times reports Trump is considering ordering a review of US intelligence agencies to be headed by Stephen Feinberg, a billionaire private equity executive with close ties to chief White House strategist Stephen Bannon and senior presidential adviser Jared Kushner. “From intelligence, papers are being leaked, things are being leaked; it’s criminal action,” the president said on Wednesday. “It’s a criminal act, and it’s been going on for a long time before me, but now it’s really going on.”
“The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy,” Trump tweeted. “Very un-American!”
The Hill reported last week that House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) have formally asked the inspector general of the Justice Department to investigate the leaks. “We have serious concerns about the potential protection of classified information here,” the lawmakers wrote. “The release of classified information can, by definition, have grave effects on national security. In light of this, we request that your office begin an immediate investigation into whether classified information was mishandled here.”