I watched in disbelief when, during the third presidential debate, Trump casually cast doubt on the high-confidence conclusion of our 17 intelligence agencies, released that month, that Russia was behind the hacking and release of election-related emails. On the campaign trail and even as president-elect, Trump routinely referred to the flawed 2002 assessment of Iraq's weapons programs as proof that the CIA couldn't be trusted -- even though the intelligence community had long ago held itself to account for those mistakes and Trump himself supported the invasion of Iraq.Trump's actions in office have been even more disturbing. His visit to CIA headquarters on his first full day in office, an overture designed to repair relations, was undone by his ego and bluster. Standing in front of a memorial to the CIA's fallen officers, he seemed to be addressing the cameras and reporters in the room, rather than the agency personnel in front of them, bragging about his inauguration crowd the previous day. Whether delusional or deceitful, these were not the remarks many of my former colleagues and I wanted to hear from our new commander in chief. I couldn't help but reflect on the stark contrast between the bombast of the new president and the quiet dedication of a mentor -- a courageous, dedicated professional -- who is memorialized on that wall. I know others at CIA felt similarly.
To hear Donald Trump tell it, he and the intelligence community get along swimmingly. The Republican president, who's repeatedly questioned intelligence professionals' integrity and professionalism, told the CIA on his first full day in office that the media "sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community." The truth, he added, is "exactly the opposite."A few days later, reflecting on his reception at the agency, Trump added, "I got a standing ovation. In fact, they said it was the biggest standing ovation since Peyton Manning had won the Super Bowl and they said it was equal. I got a standing ovation. It lasted for a long period of time."But while the president was clearly delighted with himself, some intelligence professionals had a very different reaction. The Washington Post published a piece overnight from Edward Price, a former CIA analyst and spokesperson for the National Security Council, who intended to spend the rest of his career at the CIA, where he's worked for over a decade. But his plans changed last week after Price, who worked for presidents from both parties, "reluctantly concluded" that he simply couldn't be part of Donald Trump's team. [Update: Price is scheduled to talk to Rachel about his perspective and experiences on tonight's show.]
So much for comparing Trump's reception to Peyton Manning after the Super Bowl.When the president put Stephen Bannon, Trump's political strategist, on the National Security Council, Price described the move as "the final straw."This comes against the backdrop of reports that some U.S. intelligence officials "have withheld sensitive intelligence from President Donald Trump because they are concerned it could be leaked or compromised."White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer recently insisted that the very idea of a "rift" between Trump and the intelligence community is a "myth." There's a fair amount of evidence that suggests Spicer's claim is laughably untrue.Reading Price's op-ed, it's hard not to wonder about the bigger picture. It's difficult to know for sure, but how common are Price's concerns? How many others have quietly given up on serving in federal agencies because they simply can't stand to work for Trump?And looking ahead, how many Americans who might have considered a career path in federal agencies will instead go in a different direction because of their discomfort with the man in the Oval Office?