February 18, 2017
Are intelligence officials working to embarrass the President?
The Times reports talks are under way in Washington of a “chilling” plan by intelligence agencies to oust the president by disseminating classified material to the mainstream media.Over the past month since Mr Trump’s inauguration, sensitive details including foreign surveillance and the content of private phone calls have come into public view.Details of active FBI investigations and draft executive orders, including a plan to potentially reopen an offshore CIA-operated prison, have also been leaked to the press.In its analysis, The Times suggests Washington bureaucrats who were held over from the Obama administration could have been behind the leaks of draft executive orders as Mr Trump transitioned into the White House.It also reports the Department of Justice could be playing a role, noting the timing of Acting Attorney General Sally Yates’ dismissal with her warning to the White House council that Michael Flynn was vulnerable to blackmail by Russia.Just over two weeks later, news of her warning had made the mainstream news.
The highly-publicised resignation of Mr Trump’s former security adviser Mr Flynn, who left the White House after records of his contact with Russia were leaked, has only added to the speculation.He resigned conceding he gave “incomplete information” about his phone calls with Russia’s ambassador to the US. It was also suggested he could become a target of Russian blackmail. On top of that, CNN and the New York Times published two explosive stories, citing US intelligence officials, which alleged members of Mr Trump’s campaign team were in frequent contact with Russian intelligence officials before last year’s election.Both sets of leaks were politically damaging for Mr Trump.The President has acknowledged he believes the intelligence community could be responsible for the leaks. Earlier this week, he took to Twitter to publicly question them.Information is being illegally given to the failing @nytimes & @washingtonpost by the intelligence community (NSA and FBI?).Just like Russia— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 15, 2017 The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington? Will these leaks be happening as I deal on N.Korea etc?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 14, 2017 Later, at his first solo press conference, Mr Trump claimed that the leaks about his campaign staffers’ ties to Russia were “real”, but said the news they generated was fake.“I mean, the leaks are real. You know what they said, you saw it. And the leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake,” he said.Mr Trump has publicly berated intelligence agencies and likened the current conditions to living in “Nazi Germany”.University College London Professor Iwan Morgan recently told news.com.au the power struggle between the White House and the US intelligence community has the hallmarks of an “old fashioned turf war” where neither side trusts one another.“It’s dangerous to have intelligence agencies leaking,” he said. “[However if they genuinely believe the President won’t listen to them they have to find ways of getting things out there.”The situation is so bad some US intelligence officials are now reportedly withholding sensitive information from the President on purpose, out of concern that it could be leaked or compromised.Officials familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal that Mr Flynn’s contacts with the Russian government had created a feeling of “deep mistrust” with the intelligence community.They’ve said they also been told to dial down his daily intelligence briefing - a decision that largely stems from his well-documented “bromance” with Russian President Vladimir Putin, including his call to Russia to continue hacking Hillary Clinton’s emails during the election campaign.But a spokesman for the Office of Director of National Intelligence denied the allegations, saying: “Any suggestion that the US intelligence community is withholding information and not providing the best possible intelligence to the president and his national security team is not true.”The officials who spoke to the WSJ did stress that they know of no instance in which information regarding security threats have been omitted.Congressional probes continue to examine Russia’s alleged meddling in the US election.