An Epic Showdown with Intelligence Community

First Read: “Less than a month in office, President Trump has engaged in plenty of fights already — with the courts, Mexico, the media, and even Nordstrom. But his emerging fight with the U.S. intelligence community (over Russia and leaks) might be his biggest fight yet. On the one hand, you have the New York Times reporting that Trump is planning to appoint an ally who has little experience in intelligence matters “to lead a broad review” of the intelligence agencies. “The possible role for Stephen A. Feinberg, a co-founder of Cerberus Capital Management, has met fierce resistance among intelligence officials already on edge because of the criticism the intelligence community has received from Mr. Trump during the campaign and since he became president,” the Times says. And on the other hand, you have the Wall Street Journal writing that U.S. intelligence officials ‘have withheld sensitive intelligence from President Donald Trump because they are concerned it could be leaked or compromised.'”

“Of course, we knew this fight was coming — given Trump’s complaints against the intel community during the transition, and after recently departed Michael Flynn fed Trump the line that the intel community was politicized. Still, it’s a remarkable development. Think about it: The day after the New York Times reports that Trump’s presidential campaign had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence officials, the same paper writes that Trump is putting an ally — with little experience in intelligence matters — to lead a review of the U.S. intelligence community.”

“We get that Trump is trying to crack down on leaks; Barack Obama was frustrated by them, too. But what is the bigger story here — that Russians had contacts with Trump’s campaign, or the leaks about these contacts? Or that Russians interfered in the 2016 election, or that this interference was leaked to the press? It sure seems like Trump and his team are less bothered by the news than who’s leaking the news.”

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