Trump before his first classified briefing: I don't trust U.S. intelligence so much

A classic Trumpism in the sense that (a) he has good reason to feel the way he does and (b) it’s self-destructive to say this the day before his formal introduction to the people who’ll be working for him as president. Trump already has a potential problem looming with “brain drain” in the natsec and foreign-policy establishment if he wins; some are leery of his chumminess with Russia, some are leery of him wanting to bring back waterboarding. No less than John Brennan has said he’d resign if Trump ordered him to reinstate that practice. Worse, the more his intelligence bureaucracy comes to view President Trump as an opponent, the more apt they’ll be to leak to the media about his policy failures. You can call that unfair, but it’s a fact of life. You’d think he’d want to get off on the right foot with them, then, especially since DNI resisted pressure from his critics to skip the traditional pre-election briefings for Trump. If he doesn’t trust them, why would he want to be briefed by them to begin with?

This attitude makes sense, though, as an example of Steve Bannon’s strategy of having Trump run as a total outsider. If everything in Washington is stupid, rotten, and useless, then certainly the people who thought Iraq had WMDs are part of that. He’ll worry about earning their loyalty once he’s taken the oath of office, I guess.

During an interview aired on “Fox and Friends” Wednesday morning, Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, was asked whether he “trust[s] intelligence.”

“Not so much from the people that have been doing it for our country,” Trump responded. “I mean, look what’s happened over the last 10 years. … It’s been catastrophic.

“Very easy to use them, but I won’t use them, because they’ve made such bad decisions,” he said, pointing to apparent intelligence failures ahead of the United States’s 2003 invasion of Iraq. At the time, George W. Bush administration officials appeared convinced that Saddam Hussein’s government was creating weapons of mass destruction, though that was not the case.

“If we would have never touched it, it would have been a lot better,” Trump said.

Skip to 2:45 of the clip below for that bit. #NeverTrump candidate Evan McMullin, a CIA veteran, dropped this on Trump this morning:

“As a former intelligence professional, I find it alarming that Donald Trump is receiving a classified intelligence briefing. Trump, his campaign chairman Paul Manafort and General Mike Flynn are all compromised by the Russians, and this briefing will be an intelligence coup for Vladimir Putin’s SVR and GRU,” said Evan McMullin.

Donald Trump’s financial connections to Russian oligarchs and Russian organized crime, his constant and effusive praise of Vladimir Putin and his campaign Chairman Paul Manafort’s deep personal and financial ties to the Russian government are all well-documented.

“Having paid Kremlin employee General Michael Flynn in a classified intelligence briefing should disqualify Trump from receiving the nation’s most sensitive intelligence,” said campaign communications adviser Rick Wilson.

Flynn will indeed accompany Trump to today’s briefing. His own intelligence credentials are top-notch, having once headed DIA, but Wilson’s shot at him for having been paid by the Kremlin is also true. Flynn received an undisclosed fee for agreeing to be interviewed by Russian propaganda network RT and landed himself a seat at the head table right next to Tsar Vladimir at an anniversary gala held for the channel in Moscow late last year. Manafort’s coziness with Putin’s administration via Ukraine is another concern. I wonder if, with some natsec pros jittery about sharing information with Trump, they might slip some form of disinformation into today’s briefing just to see if it ends up anywhere in Russian media in the coming weeks. Invent some story, say, about a mishap involving a U.S. submarine and wait. If RT publishes a suspiciously similar “scoop” about an American sub in distress then you know it’s time to end the security briefings.

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