{{show_title_date || "Trump admin spikes intel report that undercuts travel ban, 2/24/17, 9:00 PM ET"}}

White House seeks intelligence that tells Trump what he wants to hear

Updated
Donald Trump hasn’t given up on his Muslim ban, but after failing in the courts, the president realizes his proposal needs some work. Hoping to craft a policy that can pass legal muster, the White House has moved forward in recent weeks with a plan that involves defending the legality of the administration’s policy by pointing to security risks that, in Trump’s mind, makes his proposal necessary.

With that in mind, a senior White House official told CNN late last week that intelligence officials at the Department of Homeland Security “are working on an intelligence report that will demonstrate that the security threat for these seven countries is substantial and that these seven countries have all been exporters of terrorism into the United States.”

As Rachel noted on Friday’s show, the key phrase in the quote is “will demonstrate.” The White House hadn’t seen the incomplete intelligence reports, but Team Trump was nevertheless comfortable describing the findings and boasting about how they would support the president’s preconceived conclusions. As the Bush/Cheney administration’s handling of pre-invasion Iraq intelligence helped prove, this is exactly the opposite of how the process is supposed to work.

But a funny thing happened to derail Team Trump’s plan: intelligence professionals decided to tell the White House the truth, instead of what the president wanted to hear.
Analysts at the Homeland Security Department’s intelligence arm found insufficient evidence that citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries included in President Donald Trump’s travel ban pose a terror threat to the United States.

A draft document obtained by The Associated Press concludes that citizenship is an “unlikely indicator” of terrorism threats to the United States and that few people from the countries Trump listed in his travel ban have carried out attacks or been involved in terrorism-related activities in the U.S. since Syria’s civil war started in 2011.
The Associated Press published the full document, prepared by the Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, online. Note that it also asserts that people from the seven suspect countries are “rarely implicated in U.S.-based terrorism.”

In practical terms, the White House’s strategy has failed spectacularly. They started with the preconceived answer – the one Trump unveiled during the campaign without any meaningful analysis or substantive thought – and then asked intelligence officials to reverse-engineer the evidence to justify the administration’s goal.

What’s less clear is whether the White House cares. A Wall Street Journal report suggests the answer is no.
Trump administration officials said the assessment ignored available information that supports the immigration ban and the report they requested has yet to be presented.

“The president asked for an intelligence assessment. This is not the intelligence assessment the president asked for,” a senior administration official said.
Consider the timeline of events:

1. Trump and his team carelessly threw together a Muslim ban and bungled its implementation.

2. The ban was struck down in the courts, which is what Trump’s hand-picked acting attorney general warned him might happen, right before he fired her.

3. Trump told intelligence officials to give him information that justifies what he intends to do regardless of the facts.

4. The Department of Homeland Security instead told Trump the truth.

5. The White House responded by saying it wanted an alternative truth.

The mind reels.

DHS, Intelligence and White House

White House seeks intelligence that tells Trump what he wants to hear

Updated