The negative and potentially dangerous effects from President Donald Trump’s belligerence just keep piling up. Now, POLITICO reports that staff members at intelligence agencies normally tasked with delivering public Worldwide Threats Assessment hearings have been trying to cancel the public component of those Congressional meetings. The reason? The publication specifically cites a desire to avoid getting into it with Trump again, like happened after last year’s hearing at the Senate Intelligence Committee featured agency chiefs directly contradicting the president’s conclusions about hot button issues like Iran, North Korea, and ISIS.
After that public contradiction, Trump worked himself up into a rage on Twitter, where he suggested that the agency chiefs should “go back to school!” He seems pathologically unwilling and/or unable to admit even the possibility that he’s wrong. He dug himself in deeper when he then claimed that the chiefs had been misquoted — but their remarks were public, and video is available. It is a mess all around, which is again driven by Trump’s ego.
There’s already mounting tension surrounding the House’s side of the Worldwide Threats Assessment hearings, which are supposed to take place in both chambers of Congress. No matter that precedent, no such hearing has occurred in the House since 2016. Intel chiefs have stayed away under both Republican and Democratic leaders.
An anonymous senior Democratic committee official told POLITICO:
‘We have requested, and made clear, that the committee expects a public Worldwide Threats hearing this year — this is the one public form of oversight that the Intelligence Community is responsible to do each year, and avoiding angering the man in the Oval Office is not a good enough reason to refuse to come.’
The issues don’t even end with Trump, the official noted. There are also standing concerns about the behavior of Republican committee members, who could try and trick officials into either lying or revealing classified information. Previous targets that have sparked that kind of behavior from Republicans include the identity of a whistleblower who revealed the president’s scheme to bribe Ukraine.
The official continued:
‘We also understand the concern that the IC has over members asking questions that essentially trap their leaders into either lying or disclosing classified information, but we don’t believe that concern is unsurmountable either.’
Meanwhile, Senate Intelligence Committee spokesperson Caitlin Carroll said that the upper chamber had not even issued their “formal invitations” for the agency chiefs in question to appear for a public hearing. Anonymous sources told POLITICO that some members of Congress aren’t worried about the requests to cancel the public hearing plans because “to skip or refuse to comply with a formal request would harm national security leaders’ relationship with Capitol Hill.”
Trump has already targeted the intelligence agencies outside the context of these public hearings. He’s routinely tried to discredit them for daring to investigate Russian interference in U.S. elections and possible Trump team connections to it, and on the flip side, he’s repeatedly actively sided with foreign propaganda, like the claim that actually, Ukraine led U.S. election meddling, not Russia. That’s just not true, and Trump’s presidency continues to pose a danger to national security.