President-elect Donald Trump speaks at the DeltaPlex Arena, December 9, 2016 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Trump intensifies ‘insanely dangerous’ feud with intel agencies

As recently as Monday night, Kellyanne Conway said Americans “should be very happy” that Donald Trump is “open” to receiving a briefing this week from intelligence officials about Russia’s alleged intervention in the U.S. presidential campaign. Conway, who’ll serve as a senior advisor in the Trump White House, added, “He’s very much looking forward to that.”

The Rachel Maddow Show, 1/3/17, 9:30 PM ET

Schumer: Trump 'being really dumb' to fight with intel agencies

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer talks with Rachel Maddow about Donald Trump’s antagonistic tweeting at U.S. intelligence agencies over evidence of Russian hacking.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer talks with Rachel Maddow about Donald Trump’s antagonistic tweeting at U.S. intelligence agencies over evidence of Russian hacking.
The idea that the public should be delighted that the president-elect is willing to complete routine tasks was itself an odd argument, but even more important is that Conway was clearly mistaken about Trump’s frame of mind.
The president-elect took another swipe on Tuesday at the intelligence community that will be under his command in just a few weeks, once again in a tweet.

Last week Donald Trump had said he would meet with high-level intel briefers this week to hear more about Russian hacking of the U.S. election…. On Tuesday, Trump tweeted, “The ‘Intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking’ was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!”
To the extent that reality matters, the briefing wasn’t delayed. NBC News’ report added that a senior U.S. intelligence official with direct knowledge of the situation said last night that “the heads of the NSA, CIA, FBI and the director of national intelligence were always scheduled to meet with Trump on Friday.”

But arguably more important than Trump’s lazy dishonesty is his willingness to intensify his ongoing feud with U.S. intelligence agencies. In one juvenile tweet, the president-elect managed to attack the integrity of the agencies, their work, their professionalism, and their findings. He also has clearly made up his mind about the underlying controversy, choosing to believe Russia over American officials.

Sure, other presidents (and presidents-elect) have clashed with intelligence officials in recent history, but Trump is the first to openly taunt and mock these agencies in public.

The Washington Post’s Michael Gerson, a former George W. Bush speechwriter, wrote last month, “Trump’s blanket attack on the intelligence community for incompetence – as though he were still going after ‘Little Marco’ or ‘Lyin’ Ted’ – is an insanely dangerous antic that materially undermines American security.” Gerson added last night that Trump’s latest salvo is “dangerous beyond belief” and “dangerous beyond precedent.”

Rachel asked Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) about Trump’s bizarre antics, and he replied, “[Y]ou take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday of getting back at you. So even for a practical, supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he’s being really dumb to do this.”

What happens next is unclear. Will intelligence professionals start resigning, rather than work for an amateur president who belittles their work? Will intelligence agencies have enough trust in Trump to share sensitive information, uncertain whether he’ll share that information with others?

If Trump, once he’s president, tells the American public to believe him when it comes to a national security threat or the need for a war, will anyone other than his most blindly loyal followers be able to take his claims seriously?

Trump has created a crisis for no reason. The consequences for all of us may be severe.