Unwanted Truths: Inside Trump’s Battles With U.S. Intelligence Agencies

But the gross intelligence failures within the run-up to the Iraq conflict supplied a subtler cautionary story too. The Bush administration had a bent to see solely what it wished to see of that intelligence, to contort and mischaracterize semi-educated guesses as unassailable information — a bent that, in Trump, was compulsive to an almost pathological diploma. As one intelligence veteran who sometimes briefed Trump advised me: “On a visceral level, his view was, ‘You all are supposed to be helping me.’ But when you’d bring in evidence that Russia interfered, that’s what he’d refer to as not helpful. Or when he’s wanting to turn the screws on NATO, we’d come in with a warning of the consequences of NATO falling apart. And he’d say, ‘You never do things for me.’”

Historically, the C.I.A. has realized to accommodate the person presidents it serves, although at all times with the tacit understanding that the “first customer” wouldn’t abuse the courtesy. Bill Clinton’s famously fluid schedule made it troublesome for him to decide to day by day one-on-one briefings. (When a person in a stolen Cessna 150 airplane crashed it into the South Lawn of the White House in 1994, the mordant joke across the C.I.A. was that it was the company’s director, Jim Woolsey, making an attempt to get a gathering with the president.)

Still, Clinton learn his briefing materials. George W. Bush, whose father had been a C.I.A. director, faithfully took his briefings six mornings every week — although it famously didn’t lead to his heeding the August 2001 briefing titled “Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in U.S.” Obama, too, took day by day briefings for many of his presidency; Lisa Monaco, his homeland-security adviser, earned the presidential nickname Dr. Doom for her grim counterterrorism updates. The briefings had been a ritual by way of which the intelligence group implicitly made the case for itself as one thing that transcended partisanship and operated on a time scale past mere presidencies.

It was inevitable that some changes would show obligatory for Trump, novice as he was to authorities. The new president’s pursuits had been primarily financial, a subject that was by no means the intelligence group’s robust swimsuit. Under Trump, intelligence officers realized to “up our econ briefings game,” as one in all them advised me.

But the tradition conflict posed extra critical issues too. Trump was accustomed to slicing offers and sharing gossip on his personal cellphone, typically loudly. He loved being round billionaires, to whom he would “show off about some of the stuff he thought was cool — the capabilities of different weapons systems,” one former senior administration official recalled. “These were superrich guys who wouldn’t give him the time of day before he became president. He’d use that stuff as currency he had that they didn’t, not understanding the implications.” Trump additionally stocked his President’s Intelligence Advisory Board with rich businesspeople who, when briefed by one intelligence official, “would sometimes make you uncomfortable” as a result of from time to time, “their questions were related to their business dealings,” this particular person recalled.

The chairman of that advisory board, Stephen Feinberg, is co-chief government of Cerberus Capital Management, which owns DynCorp, a serious protection contractor that has received a number of profitable navy contracts. Feinberg was a pal of the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, whose expansive function within the new administration additionally created unease inside the intelligence group. “His attitude,” one former intelligence official recalled of Kushner, “is like that of his father-in-law, who always thought that people who weren’t trying to be wealthy but instead went into public service were lesser.” There had been apparent safety points that appeared to not have occurred to Kushner, who “would have the Chinese ambassador and his minions wandering around the West Wing unescorted,” recalled one former senior administration official. (The White House disputes this. “No foreign nationals are allowed to roam freely in the West Wing,” McEnany mentioned in a press release.)

Early within the administration, Kushner and an aide confirmed as much as Langley headquarters — conspicuous of their fitted fits — for a gathering to learn the way the C.I.A. features. The company accommodated them, however afterward, based on one participant within the assembly, concern developed inside the company about Kushner’s potential conflicts. His sophisticated worldwide enterprise pursuits, in addition to his evolving friendship with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, had raised critical issues amongst officers answerable for awarding safety credentials. An additional concern, one other former senior intelligence official mentioned, “was just his cavalier and arrogant attitude that ‘I know what I’m doing,’ without any cultural understanding of why things are classified, that would put our intelligence at risk.”

Source link Nytimes.com

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