Every day, America’s intelligence agencies work hard to keep Americans safe. Their agents and employees are spread across the world, often in some of the most dangerous places. It is commonplace for our intelligence agents to risk their lives to get vital information on enemy threats for the purpose of safeguarding the national security of the United States.
Before Donald Trump was elected President, we gave credence to what we were told by these patriotic agencies and their dedicated employees. They have not always been right but they have a remarkable track record of protecting America and its people from harm.
We are now in a time when the Commander in Chief no longer believes the intelligence professionals. Instead, as he often proclaims, Trump relies on his gut to guide policy. As he often demonstrates, he also relies on friends like Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean tyrant Kim Jong-un to give him the straight scoop.
Trump’s remarkable gut and his despotic friends guide our nation’s foreign policy, which raises the question of whether we have any need to maintain an expensive intelligence-gathering apparatus. Why spend more than $70 billion a year on the CIA and some twenty other intel agencies to protect the country when Trump’s gut and friends can do the job? Isn’t it wasteful to spend all that money on intelligence work if the President ignores it and claims intel professionals are liars and purveyors of fake news?
Robert Mueller documented the Russian attack on our 2016 election in great detail, disclosing the identity of the people who played a part in the attack and even some of what they actually said. Despite fulminating about Mueller’s findings, the President has not lifted a finger to disprove them, merely writing them off as fake news. The Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee has affirmed Mueller’s findings of Russian interference.
There can be no question that Putin supported Trump in the 2016 campaign. At his July 2018 meeting in Helsinki with Trump, Putin answered, “Yes, I did. Yes, I did,” when asked if he had wanted Trump to win the election. Yet, Trump continues to deny that the Russians tried to manipulate that election.
Trump nominated Senator Dan Coats to serve as Director of National Intelligence (DNI) in January 2017. From that point forward, Coats repeatedly affirmed the unanimous conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election in favor of Donald Trump. He affirmed Mueller’s conclusion that the Russians would continue interfering through the 2020 election. When Coats persisted in warning of the Russian threat to our democracy, Trump forced his resignation on August 15, 2019.
Trump appointed a highly decorated Navy Admiral and former Navy SEAL, Joseph McGuire, as acting DNI the following day. In January, McGuire told the House Intelligence Committee in a classified briefing that Russia would interfere in the 2020 election in Trump’s favor. He was fired several days later and replaced by a political hack with no intelligence experience. Our nation will continue its national security journey relying on Trump’s gut and friends, blind to the dangers ahead.
This repeated pattern of ignoring facts, rejecting intelligence assessments, and demonizing intelligence professionals is extremely dangerous. The man who took down Osama bin-Laden, William McRaven, a highly decorated Navy Admiral and former Navy SEAL, had this to say about it: “As Americans, we should be frightened--deeply afraid for the future of the nation. When good men and women can’t speak the truth, when facts are inconvenient, when integrity and character no longer matter, when presidential ego and self-preservation are more important than national security--then there is nothing left to stop the triumph of evil.”