A breakdown of trust between Donald Trump and America’s spy chiefs
Posted by fidest press agency su sabato, 14 gennaio 2017
“I WON”. It is hard to overstate the psychological weight carried by those two words, offered by President-elect Donald Trump as evidence that “the American public” does not care that he has not released his tax returns. The defiant words were flung out near the start of a rowdy press conference in the marble and brass lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan—the businessman’s first formal question-and-answer session with reporters in half a year.Many mainstream Republicans, including members of Congress or business types excited by the chance to advance a conservative agenda of tax cuts and deregulation once they control the White House and both chambers of Congress, had hoped that by this moment, nine days from his inauguration, victory might make Mr Trump more magnanimous.That was not the President-elect Trump who turned up. Instead, the man who spoke to the world on the morning of January 11th was, whether judged in terms of his character or on questions of substance, the same bullying, thin-skinned but brilliantly populist man who campaigned with such success.The press wanted, first and foremost, to ask about an extraordinary few days in which Americans learned that the country’s spy chiefs are confident that Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, ordered an unprecedented operation to meddle in the presidential election of 2016 by hacking the emails of the Democratic National Committee and senior figures in Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Then, on January 10th , Americans learned from leaks to the press that American intelligence agencies have been weighing unverified (and perhaps wholly false) allegations that Mr Trump is vulnerable to blackmail by Russia thanks to personal indiscretions committed during a visit to Moscow.
Mr Trump offered some concessions. He accepted that Russia was behind the theft of emails from the DNC, though he blamed the Democrats for weak cyber-security and added: “But look at what we learned from the hacking.” But he mostly addressed himself to his supporters, as surely as if he was standing on a rally platform. Asked for his thoughts on intelligence findings that Mr Putin wanted him to win, he replied: “If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what folks, that’s called an asset not a liability.” He doubled down on his insistence that Russia might be a legitimate and useful ally in the fight against the fanatics of Islamic State—though that is a suggestion that sharply divides his own party, as was proved when his nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, was sharply questioned today by Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a Republican, about whether Russian attacks on civilians in Syria amount to war crimes.Hotly denying that he would have been foolish enough to misbehave while abroad, Mr Trump attacked intelligence agencies for leaking details of classified briefings to the press. On that he absolutely has a point, though the dossier suggesting that he has been compromised by the Russians, which was commissioned from a former British intelligence official by Republican opponents of Mr Trump during the presidential primary campaign, has been floating around newsrooms and foreign embassies in Washington for months. What was startling was the ferocity with which Mr Trump went after the spies who will soon be his eyes and ears around the globe, calling them “vital” but then calling it “disgraceful that intelligence services let out any information that turned out to be so false and fake” and comparing the leaks to “’something Nazi Germany would have done.”
That level of mistrust matters. During his Senate confirmation hearing Mr Tillerson, a former CEO of the energy giant ExxonMobil who has done much business in Russia, batted aside questions about his views of Mr Putin and whether America should maintain sanctions on his government by saying that he had not yet had classified briefings about Russian conduct. Those classified briefings, assuming that Mr Tillerson is confirmed, will be delivered by the same spy services that Mr Trump accuses of involvement in a “political witch-hunt” against him—though the new administration will have installed new agency chiefs by then. Mr Trump needs to start trusting his own government and acting like a leader for all Americans soon. A man constantly in campaign mode will struggle to make America great again. (photo: trumpputin) (font: The Economist by American politics columnist)