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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Trump wages war against intelligence agencies: How far will it go?

Daniel McAdams |

I was in Washington, D.C. over the weekend for the wedding of an old Ron Paul Congressional office colleague and in the course of my stay had several opportunities to get a sense of the town where I spent 14 working years. There is the bustle of those engaged in — or contemplating — filling up the many vacancies produced by the change of administrations. Who’s in? Who’s out? Whose influence is rising; whose is falling? There is also a sense in Washington that only in Washington can any kind of policy work of any importance be done. I got that when I explained what the Ron Paul Institute and the Liberty Report were up to down in Texas.

Why is Washington so significant? 

Washington is filled with think tanks that seek to influence Washington. Most of those “thinkers” were once policymakers and will soon be policymakers again. Their analysis is therefore designed to influence policy in a way that benefits the status quo and thus heightens the analyst’s chances of returning to a coveted “policymaking” position. The think tank sinecures are funded by giant corporations which benefit financially orders of magnitude more than they spend on think tanks when the analyst recommends more US intervention abroad or the need to “rebuild” the military. It’s a racket.

Since when was it criminal for an incoming administration to talk to those with whom they will soon be formally engaging?

Those engaged in the above merry-go-round simply cannot imagine it worth anyone’s time to bother focusing efforts away from Washington and toward the rest of the country (which is saddled with the bills Washington rings up). They are in the top-down world of policy authoritarianism and we are in the bottom-up world of education and the power of ideas.

Trump threatens to overturn status quo

We are seeing evidence of this clash in these early dramatic days of the Trump Administration. The insiders, including the intelligence community and what we call the deep state, feel threatened and upset by the new President’s threats to overturn this status quo. This is particularly true in the President’s repeated promise to get along better with Russia. Too much of Washington has a vested interest in a new Cold War to let that happen. The intelligence community appears at war with its own commander in chief over Russia. Threat exaggeration is critical to budgets and careers.

President Trump’s National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, was the first victim of the anti-Russia witch hunt that has drawn together a dangerous alliance of the deep state, the neocons, and mainline Democrats who cannot accept their defeat at the polls in November.

Washington is filled with think tanks that seek to influence Washington. Most of those “thinkers” were once policymakers and will soon be policymakers again.

Flynn’s fall was orchestrated by the intelligence community, through the interception and leak of a conversation the incoming top official had with the Russian ambassador to the United States. The complicit media amplified the false narrative that what would otherwise be expected during a transition — communication with important foreign governments — was somehow a nefarious attempt to…well they don’t say. Only that he should not have dared communicate to foreign governments before January 20th.

Read more: Michael Flynn, Trump’s NSA, kicked out for Russian Connection: Resigned or Fired?

Only that’s not true either. Flynn met with Israeli intelligence officials during the transition to discuss policy on Iran and thus far there has not been a peep about possible violations of the Logan Act or anything else over it.

Surprisingly, the otherwise solidly neoconservative writer Eli Lake captured accurately the surreal reality of a government at war with its president:

In normal times, the idea that US officials entrusted with our most sensitive secrets would selectively disclose them to undermine the White House would alarm those worried about creeping authoritarianism. Imagine if intercepts of a call between Obama’s incoming national security adviser and Iran’s foreign minister leaked to the press before the nuclear negotiations began? The howls of indignation would be deafening.

Since when was it criminal for an incoming administration to talk to those with whom they will soon be formally engaging? As someone wrote on Twitter, we may as well shut down all the embassies if actually talking to other countries is to be criminalized.

The president is on the ropes and he appears to be buckling under the pressure. Why didn’t he stand by Flynn? And why is he all of a sudden turning on a dime and making very aggressive pronouncements toward Russia including absurd demands that Russia “give back” Crimea to Ukraine? He even Tweeted this morning that Obama was too soft on Russia!

Read more: Trump under pressure after Flynn, thunders to Russia: “Get out of Crimea”

These are dangerous and extraordinary times. The President openly Tweets criticisms of the actions of the intelligence community and the intelligence community “leaks” damning but unsubstantiated information designed to undermine the president. Are we seeing the snarling teeth of the deep state begin to be bared? Could President Trump crack down on an intelligence community at least partly gone rogue even if he wants to?


Daniel McAdams served as the foreign affairs, civil liberties, and defense policy advisor to U.S. Congressman Ron Paul, MD (R-Texas) from 2001 until Dr. Paul’s retirement at the end of 2012. From 1993-1999 he worked as a journalist based in Budapest, Hungary, and traveled through the former communist bloc as a human rights monitor and election observer. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.