IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Trump still has no use for U.S. intelligence agencies

Does Trump reflexively oppose American intelligence assessments or is this a situation in which he believes Putin's government implicitly?
A man crosses the Central Intelligence A
A man crosses the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) logo in the lobby of CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
A couple of months ago, ahead of his first intelligence briefing as a presidential candidate, Donald Trump was asked about whether he'd trust the information he receives. "Not so much from the people that have been doing it for our country," the Republican said, adding, in reference to U.S. intelligence agencies, "I won't use them because they've made such bad decisions."Evidently, this wasn't an off-hand comment. At least when it comes to Russia, Trump simply does not believe American intelligence officials.

Donald Trump continued his extraordinary repudiation of U.S. intelligence agencies Wednesday night when he expressed "doubt" about their conclusion that Russia has been interfering in the U.S. election through a hacking campaign -- even though intelligence officials briefed him on the Russia link in person months ago."Our country has no idea," who is doing the hacking, the Republican nominee said during the final presidential debate, after Hillary Clinton challenged him to accept the conclusion of the CIA and other agencies that the Russian government was behind the leaks of internal Democratic emails.When moderator Chris Wallace pressed Trump on whether he was disputing the assessment from U.S. intelligence officials, he replied, "Yeah, I doubt it. I doubt it."

Note, it's not just the agencies Trump distrusts. The Dallas Morning News published a report yesterday noting that the candidate's stance "was particularly inexplicable because in a debate prep session Monday, one of his own national security advisers, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, told Trump that in his judgment ... the hacks were directed by Russia."McCaul told the newspaper, "I have personally briefed him on that and told him that in my opinion ... this was in fact a nation-state attack by Russia."
So, does Trump just reflexively oppose American intelligence assessments or is this a situation in which the Republican just believes Vladimir Putin's government so implicitly that he literally can't believe any evidence that reflects poorly on his Russian allies?It may very well be the latter. Politico noted yesterday that Trump keeps defending Putin's government against allegations of wrongdoing, even before Russia's apparent involvement in computer hacking intended to affect the U.S. presidential election.

In January, a British government inquiry into the murder of an ex-KGB agent who had been publicly critical of Putin concluded that the Russian leader had "probably" approved the 2006 killing of Alexander Litvinenko, who drank green tea in a London hotel that had been laced with radioactive polonium-210.... But when asked about the report on the Fox Business Network, Trump was dismissive."They say a lot of things about me that are untrue, too," Trump said. "In all fairness to Putin … he hasn't been convicted of anything. Some people say he absolutely didn't do it. First of all, he says he didn't do it. But many people say it wasn't him. So who knows who did it?" [...]A month earlier, Trump also defended Putin against the charge that the Russian leader approved the murder of critical journalists since he took power in 2000. And on Oct. 15 of last year, Trump cast doubt on the consensus view of the U.S. and several European governments that pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 with a surface-to-air missile in July 2014, killing all 298 aboard.

Of course, if this is all just coincidental, and Trump is actually just hostile towards U.S. intelligence agencies for reasons he hasn't explained, I'd love to know more about who a Trump White House would turn to for reliable intelligence on national security.