National Security

Perry Faces Steep Learning Curve

“When President-elect Donald Trump offered Rick Perry the job of energy secretary five weeks ago, Mr. Perry gladly accepted, believing he was taking on a role as a global ambassador for the American oil and gas industry that he had long championed in his home state,” the New York Times reports.

“In the days after, Mr. Perry, the former Texas governor, discovered that he would be no such thing — that in fact, if confirmed by the Senate, he would become the steward of a vast national security complex he knew almost nothing about, caring for the most fearsome weapons on the planet, the United States’ nuclear arsenal.”

Is Trump Ready for a National Security Crisis?

Politico: “Sources close to the transition describe Trump’s national security staffing as a ‘black box,’ leaving everyone from Obama administration officials to Trump job seekers and foreign diplomats guessing at who will land crucial positions shaping policy and managing crises. Much of the speculation focuses on the NSC, which plays the vital role of coordinating foreign policy and national security within the White House. The NSC staffing process is being controlled closely by Trump’s national security adviser-designate, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who, unlike his past several predecessors, has no NSC experience.”

Trump Prefers Short Intelligence Briefings

President-elect Donald Trump admitted that receiving intel briefings has shown him that the U.S. faces some formidable “enemies” but said he will “solve the problems,” ABC News reports.

Said Trump: “I’ve had a lot of briefings that are very… I don’t want to say ‘scary’ because I’ll solve the problems. But we have some big enemies out there in this country and we have some very big enemies — very big and, in some cases, strong enemies.”

He added that he likes his briefings short: “I like bullets or I like as little as possible. I don’t need, you know, 200-page reports on something that can be handled on a page. That I can tell you.”

Obama Commutes Bulk of Chelsea Manning’s Sentence

President Obama “largely commuted the remaining prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the army intelligence analyst convicted of an enormous 2010 leak that revealed American military and diplomatic activities across the world, disrupted the administration, and made WikiLeaks, the recipient of those disclosures, famous,” the New York Times reports.

GOP Security Establishment Feels Blacklisted

“They are some of the biggest names in the Republican national security firmament, veterans of past GOP administrations who say, if called upon by President-elect Donald Trump, they stand ready to serve their country again,” the Washington Post reports.

“But their phones aren’t ringing. Their entreaties to Trump Tower in New York have mostly gone unanswered. In Trump world, these establishment all-stars say they are ‘PNG’ — personae non gratae. Their transgression was signing one or both of two public “Never Trump” letters during the campaign, declaring they would not vote for Trump and calling his candidacy a danger to the nation.”

CIA Director Rips Into Trump Over Russia

Outgoing CIA Director John Brennan ripped into Donald Trump for “talking and tweeting” about possibly easing sanctions against Russia, saying the president-elect lacks a full understanding of the threat Moscow poses to the United States, the Associated Press reports.

Said Brennan: “I think he has to be mindful that he does not have a full appreciation and understanding of what the implications are of going down that road.”

Trump Dismissed Officials Responsible for Nuclear Arsenal

“According to an official within the Department of Energy, this past Friday, the President-elect’s team instructed the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration and his deputy to clean out their desks when Trump takes office on January 20th,” Gizmodo reports.

“The NNSA is the $12 billion-a-year agency that ‘maintains and enhances the safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.’ It’s unclear when the two officials will be replaced.”

“Traditionally, all political appointees of an outgoing presidential administration turn in resignation letters effective on noon of inauguration day, January 20. But appointees in key positions—like the people who make sure our nukes work—are often asked to stay on in their roles until a replacement can be found and confirmed by the Senate, helping ensure a smooth transition and allowing our government to continue functioning. In fact, for the entirety of Obama’s first term and into part of his second, the NNSA Administrator remained a Bush appointee.”

Extra Bonus Quote of the Day

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my lifetime. The fact that the president-elect is tweeting on this issue and taking it to the public, and in many ways undermining the credibility of the very intelligence agencies that have to provide information to him in order for him to be president of the United States, this is just unheard of and unprecedented, and I think we all have to be concerned about this.”

— Former CIA Director Leon Panetta, in an interview with NBC News, on Donald Trump’s criticism of the U.S. intelligence agencies.

Mattis Clashing with Trump Transition Team

“The honeymoon seems to be ending between retired Gen. James Mattis and Donald Trump’s transition team amid an increasingly acrimonious dispute over who will get top jobs in the Defense Department — and who gets to make those decisions,” the Washington Post reports.

“With only two weeks left before Inauguration Day and days before Mattis’s Senate confirmation hearing, most major Pentagon civilian positions remain unfilled. Behind the scenes, Mattis has been rejecting large numbers of candidates offered by the transition team for several top posts, two sources close to the transition said. The dispute over personnel appointments is contributing to a tenser relationship between Mattis and the transition officials, which could set the stage for turf wars between the Pentagon and the White House in the coming Trump administration.”

U.S. Knows Who Gave Info to Wikileaks

U.S. intelligence has identified the go-betweens the Russians used to provide stolen emails to WikiLeaks, CNN reports.

“In a Fox News interview earlier this week, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange denied that Russia was the source of leaked Democratic emails that roiled the 2016 election to the detriment of President-elect Donald Trump’s rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton.”

Trump and Assange Unite to Sow Hacking Doubts

“Just a year ago, they might have seemed the oddest of couples. But now President-elect Donald Trump and Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, have formed a united front against the conclusion of American intelligence agencies that Russian intelligence used hacked emails to interfere in the presidential election,” the New York Times reports.

“Mr. Assange, long reviled by many Republicans as an anarchist lawbreaker out to damage the United States, has won new respect from conservatives who appreciated his site’s release of Democratic emails widely perceived to have hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign. And Mr. Trump has been eager to undercut the conclusion of the F.B.I., the C.I.A. and other agencies that those emails were provided to WikiLeaks courtesy of Russian government hackers.”

Washington Post: “Although some GOP figures still view the WikiLeaks founder with suspicion, conservative news sources now praise him for exposing Democratic emails.”

Trump Plans Revamp of Top Spy Agency

President-elect Donald Trump, “a harsh critic of U.S. intelligence agencies, is working with top advisers on a plan that would restructure and pare back the nations’ top spy agency, people familiar with the planning said, prompted by a belief that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has become bloated and politicized,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“One of the people familiar with Mr. Trump’s planning said advisers are working on a plan to restructure the Central Intelligence Agency, cutting back on staffing at its Virginia headquarters and pushing more people out into field posts around the world.”

NBC News: Democrats now give CIA higher marks than Republicans