Former CIA Director Takes On Trump & AG Barr In Brutal Op-Ed

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Donald Trump has demanded an investigation into the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election to help him win and what the origins of their investigation into his campaign’s knowledge of and cooperation with it. Attorney General William Barr, doing exactly what he promised to do to get his current job, is completely backing the president and has appointed an investigator.

Former CIA Director Michael Morell sees no problem with oversight of the intelligence community, but he certainly has a problem with questions about CIA analysis of foreign interference during the elections, particularly when they’re conducted for political purposes.

In an op-ed for The Washington Post, he wrote that:

‘From his very first day in office, President Trump has had a strange and, at times, strained relationship with the U.S. intelligence community. The president and his political aides have often challenged the honesty and integrity of the community, damaging morale, undercutting its mission and making the already difficult challenge of uncovering threats to our nation even harder.’

Morell said that while he respects the appointed investigator, he has no prior experience with CIA analysis or how it’s conducted. Trump certainly doesn’t understand it, either, he doesn’t even seem to understand how the presidency works, much less the CIA. The Justice Department investigating their judgment, though, is unprecedented.

‘I see no problem with a Justice Department review of whether the CIA and other intelligence agencies lived up to their legal and regulatory responsibilities as to how they handled any information related to U.S. persons — U.S. citizens and U.S. nationals. There are strict rules in this regard — the most important promulgated by multiple attorneys general over time — and, in our divisive political environment, it would be beneficial to our democracy for the country to know whether the rules were followed or not…

‘What I am arguing is that the Justice Department has no standing to review the CIA’s analytic judgment. The whole idea is inappropriate and dangerous. It is certainly unprecedented, and there are good reasons it has never been done before.’

What’s worse, Trump supporters have bought into it. They believe that anyone who doesn’t back the president’s lies – the CIA, the free press, scientists, legislators, or anyone else – are all corrupt and working together to take down their dear leader. Morell shot down that idea, particularly the one about how the investigation into the Trump campaign began.

‘There seems to be an erroneous belief among some that if the analysts had not come to the conclusion that Putin was trying to help Trump, there would not have been an FBI counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign. This belief is misplaced; there was likely never a link between a judgment by the intelligence community analysts and a decision by the FBI on whether to open a counterintelligence case. The two were most likely completely separate. And, further, it seems that the analytic judgment about Russian intent came after the opening of the counterintelligence investigation. If so, it could not have been a predicate for the investigation.

‘A Justice-led review of the quality of intelligence analysis represents yet another weakening of the intelligence community as an institution. The country could be paying for these kinds of decisions for years to come.’

Featured image via Flickr by Gage Skidmore under a Creative Commons license