Following the revelation that the CIA was forced to remove a top intelligence asset at the Kremlin, there are really only two people happy about the results. One is Vladimir Putin, who is now much more free to plan new weapons, stage invasions, and interfere in elections without some pesky spy leaking info back to Langley. The other is Donald Trump. Not only is Trump relieved that someone with direct knowledge of his connections to Putin is no longer in position, but CNN is reporting that Trump is “skeptical” of intelligence assets in general.
Skeptical isn’t the end of it. Trump has repeatedly expressed opposition to the use of foreign intelligence assets—even when those assets provide “crucial information about hostile countries.”
As a firm believer in snitches get stitches, Trump has long made it clear that he has no respect for anyone who gives up his private secrets, even in the face of little things like the law or national security. Just as Trump made clear to James Comey, loyalty to Trump personally is supposed top every other concern. So it really should not be surprising that when it comes to the idea of someone hanging around whose job it is to let the secrets escape the room, Trump is not a fan.
When meeting with Vladimir Putin, Trump has gone out of his way to avoid spies through the simplest means available—getting rid of everyone, even on some occasions the interpreter. The same is true of Trump’s meetings with Kim Jong Un and others. Trump doesn’t want anyone hearing what he says to foreign leaders, what they say to him, and what kind of deals they propose.
For Trump, these personal relations are paramount. Even though his vaunted personal dealing has not landed a deal with China, not landed a deal with North Korea, and resulted in the destruction of critical nuclear agreements with both Iran and Russia, Trump believes that what he says is not for public consumption. And he seems to believe that if America will only unilaterally destroy its intelligence operations, everyone else will follow suit.
Or maybe … he doesn’t believe that.
Destroying U.S. intelligence has certainly been at the top of Trump’s agenda since before he took office. He’s been dismissive of intelligence officials and of analysis from experts. He’s claimed that the agencies are involved in a “deep state” conspiracy that’s threatened a “silent coup” to remove him from power. He’s made it a point to remove experienced operatives at all levels of U.S. intelligence and replace them with those who might be charitably described as “toadies.” And now he’s also made it clear that he wants to eliminate U.S. assets who are providing critical intelligence from around the world.
If someone’s real agenda was to simply destroy the ability of the U.S. government to adequately constrain hostile foreign nations and leave a network of international oligarchs free to conduct their business across all boundaries … it would be hard to do better than follow Trump’s plan.