Donald Trump has reportedly earned the ire of the intelligence community with his refusal — or his inability — to pay attention during critical briefings about national security risks.
As Trump continues to publicly cast doubt on the judgment of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, he has privately created tension for also refusing to listen to briefings put together especially for him and instead choosing to believe whatever is politically expedient for him. As the Independent reported, the situation has grown vexing for members of the intelligence community.
“The pattern has become a source of mounting concern to senior US intelligence officials who had hoped Mr. Trump would become less hostile to their work and more receptive to the information that spy agencies spend billions of dollars and sometimes put lives at risk gathering,” the report noted. “Instead, a presidential distrust that once seemed confined mainly to the intelligence community’s assessments about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election has spread across a range of global issues.”
As the report noted, the CIA and other intelligence agencies put a tremendous amount of time and energy into delivering accurate intelligence to Trump, but they believe that “all of that [is] a waste” due to Trump’s tendency not to pay attention.
The White House defended Trump, saying he frequently consults with intelligence agencies when making decisions, like moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. But past reports indicated that Donald Trump has also gone around intelligence agencies at times, seeking hand-picked information to support his own positions. As the Washington Examiner reported last month, Trump resurrected the Presidential Intelligence Advisory Board, which operates as a surrogate to evaluate intelligence agencies and has wide authority to report to the president.
Experts believe this is likely to further upset the intelligence community by allowing Trump to ask this hand-picked panel to deliver reports on alleged surveillance abuses. Trump has frequently claimed, without evidence, that the intelligence agencies improperly spied on him during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“The board can do whatever the hell the president wants it to do, and really it’s about what the president tasks it with,” University of Notre Dame professor Michael Desch, who wrote a book on the history of the Presidential Intelligence Advisory Board, told the Washington Examiner.
Donald Trump has continued to assert disbelief that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, and called the investigation into whether his campaign colluded with Russia a “witch hunt.”