As 2017 begins, Twitter rants from Donald Trump have somehow become the norm. Outgoing CIA Director John Brennan is the latest victim, under fire after blasting the President-elect for his Russia policy.
The feud began after BuzzFeed released its controversial dossier alleging a longstanding collaboration between Trump and Putin. Although unverified, the file bolstered the rumors that Russia meddled in the U.S. Presidential election—including the infamous DNC hack.
The President-elect has since blamed various members of the intelligence community (IC) for the leak. Perhaps he’s using this as a proxy to “drain the swamp,” or as another attention-grabbing stunt. Even so, this is a dangerous road to go down.
The intelligence community has yet to recover fully from the highly-politicized era of George W. Bush, where honest and upfront information took a backseat to the fervent war aura swirling through the neo-conservative cabinet. Those who operated in the post 9/11 era remember this well—including the legal quagmire that perseveres today. A fundamental trust needs to be established between the intelligence community and the POTUS, and a childish Twitter battle before the inauguration is not the way to get it.
To be blunt, Donald Trump’s laissez-faire attitude is threatening the very nature of American intelligence. The Bush administration reminded us that the role of the IC is not to tell the President what he wants to hear—it’s to tell him what is true. Mike Pompeo, nominated for CIA Director, has a track record suggesting he will do just that. Mr. Trump will be in for a rude awakening if he believes that the new IC will denounce Russian espionage rumors with the flip of a switch. That being said, Mr. Pompeo has perhaps one of the toughest roles in the next administration—balancing the wishes of the President-elect with the non-partisan and brutally honest demeanor of the US intelligence community. Time will tell.
Through all of this, one thing is abundantly clear. Trump is making a grave mistake by isolating the intelligence community in an era plagued by national security threats and overwhelmed with bureaucratic strife. If he wants to fight on Twitter, Meryl Streep has made herself readily available—but hands off of the intelligence community.