Just in case the accusations that president-elect Donald Trump is a puppet of the Kremlin, intent on destabilizing and weakening the US weren't loud enough, moments ago the WSJ assured these would hit an unprecedented level with a report that Trump, a harsh critic of U.S. intelligence agencies, is working with top advisers on a plan that would restructure and pare back the nation’s top spy agency, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, prompted by a belief that it has "become bloated and politicized."
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, or ODNI, was established in 2004 in large part to boost coordination between intelligence agencies following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
The planning comes in a time of turbulence between Trump and American intelligence agencies: the president-elect has leveled a series of social media attacks in recent months and the past few days against the U.S. intelligence apparatus, at times dismissing and mocking their assessment - perhaps with cause, after all there is still no evidence - that the Russian government hacked emails of Democratic groups and John Podesta and then leaked them to WikiLeaks and others in an effort to help Trump win the White House.
According to the Journal, among those helping lead Mr. Trump’s plan to restructure the intelligence agencies is his national security adviser, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who had served as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency until he was pushed out by DNI James Clapper and others in 2013. Also involved in the planning is Rep. Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.), who Mr. Trump selected to be his CIA director.
It's not just the ODNI: one of the people familiar with Trump’s planning told the WSJ his advisors also are working on a plan to restructure the Central Intelligence Agency, cutting back on staffing at its Virginia headquarters and pushing more people out into field posts around the world. The CIA declined to comment on the plan.
“The view from the Trump team is the intelligence world [is] becoming completely politicized,” said the individual, who is close to the Trump transition operation. “They all need to be slimmed down. The focus will be on restructuring the agencies and how they interact.”
Trump may have a point: after all it was the Democrats who accused the FBI of being so politicized that Comey's reopening of the Clinton email server case is what cost her the presidency. Alternatively, Trump has listed his reasons to allege that the CIA is likewise "politicized", however in the other direction.
To be sure, he has been quite open about his feelings on the subject. In one of his Wednesday tweets, Trump referenced an interview that WikiLeaks editor in chief Julian Assange gave to Fox News in which he denied Russia had been his source for the thousands of hacked Podesta and DNC emails. As reported earlier, Trump tweeted: “Julian Assange said ‘a 14 year old could have hacked Podesta’—why was DNC so careless? Also said Russians did not give him the info!”
In response, Trump was criticized by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers and from intelligence and law-enforcement officials for praising Russian President Vladimir Putin, for attacking American intelligence agencies, and for embracing Mr. Assange, long viewed with disdain by government officials and lawmakers.
“We have two choices: some guy living in an embassy on the run from the law…who has a history of undermining American democracy and releasing classified information to put our troops at risk, or the 17 intelligence agencies sworn to defend us,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham. “I’m going with them.”
Additionally, Trump’s advisers say he has long been skeptical of the CIA’s accuracy, and the president-elect often mentions faulty intelligence in 2002 and 2003 concerning Iraq’s weapons programs. But he has focused his skepticism of the agencies squarely on their Russia assessments, which has jarred analysts who are accustomed to more cohesion with the White House.
The rest of the story is largely familiar: here is the rundown from the WSJ
Top officials at U.S. intelligence agencies, as well as Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress, have said Russia orchestrated the computer attacks that hacked and leaked Democratic Party emails last year. President Barack Obama ordered the intelligence agencies to produce a report on the hacking operation, and he is expected to presented with the findings on Thursday.Russia has long denied any involvement in the hacking operation, though Mr. Putin has said releasing the stolen emails served a public service.
The heads of the CIA, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper are scheduled to brief Mr. Trump on the findings on Friday. Mr. Trump tweeted late Tuesday that this meeting had been delayed and suggested that the agencies still needed time to “build a case” against Russia.
White House officials said Mr. Trump will be briefed on the hacking report as soon as it is ready. White House officials have been increasingly frustrated by Mr. Trump’s confrontations with intelligence officials.
“It’s appalling,” the official said. “No president has ever taken on the CIA and come out looking good.”
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In what some may see as a preemptive counter-coup against unfriendly elements, the WSJ notes that Trump shares the view of Flynn and Pompeo that the intelligence community’s position that Russians tried to help his campaign is an attempt to undermine his victory or say he didn’t win, the official close to the transition said.
Flynn will lead the White House’s National Security Council, giving him broad influence in military and intelligence decisions throughout the government. He is also a believer in rotating senior intelligence agencies into the field and reducing headquarters staff.
Meanwhile, current and former intelligence and law-enforcement officials have reacted with a mix of bafflement and outrage to Mr. Trump’s continuing series of jabs at U.S. spies. “They are furious about it,” said one former senior intelligence official, adding that a retinue of senior officials who thought they would be staying on in a Hillary Clinton administration now are re-evaluating their plans following Mr. Trump’s election.
Additionally, current and former officials said it was particularly striking to see Trump quote Assange in tweets. “It’s pretty horrifying to me that he’s siding with Assange over the intelligence agencies,’’ said one former law-enforcement official.
And that may explain why Trump has decided to overhaul the entire US security apparatus from the ground up.
Paul Pillar, a 28-year veteran of the CIA who retired in 2005, said he was disturbed by Trump’s tweets and feared much of the intelligence community’s assessments could be filtered through Lt. Gen. Flynn, chosen by Mr. Trump as his national security adviser.
“I’m rather pessimistic,” he said. “This is indeed disturbing that the president should come in with this negative view of the agencies coupled with his habits on how he absorbs information and so on that don’t provide a lot of hope for change.”
As a result of Trump's unprecedented overhaul of the US intelligence apparatus, we expect that to soon hear the loudest calls for Trump committing treason yet.