Donald Trump is continuing to reject the evidence and analysis provided by the CIA, military intelligence, and other agencies. His refusal to accept facts and expert review increasingly leaves the United States in danger, and is one of the primary reasons that America has so frequently been at odds with allies, and sometimes the world.
As the Washington Post reports, intelligence officials thought initially that Trump’s resistance to their work was a campaign stunt, and that once he was privy to the details of how they were reaching their results and recommendations, he would settle in and consult with them on important issues and appreciated the effort—and the lives—invested in bringing back the best information possible. But that’s not what happened. If anything, Trump has become even more resistant to looking at intelligence analysis. He won’t read reports. He’s not interested in the data.
“There is extraordinary frustration,” a U.S. intelligence official said. The CIA and other agencies continue to devote enormous “time, energy and resources” to ensuring that accurate intelligence is delivered to Trump, the official said, but his seeming imperviousness to such material often renders “all of that a waste.”
Instead Trump wants to operate on his “gut.” And while Trump’s gut may be a considerable source of gravity, it’s utterly lacking in either gravitas or accuracy.
As a result, of the Great Wall that Trump has raised between himself and anything that looks like intelligence, many of the officials in various agencies are writing reports not for use, but “for the record.” They’re trying to ensure that when history peeks in to see just how the United States screwed up so badly on so many historic opportunities (or when alien archaeologists go looking for just who was responsible for a supposedly intelligence species parboiling the planet) they will discover that the intelligence community was still doing their work, still sending out signals of danger. But the receivers were all turned off.
Even before he took office, Donald Trump showed nothing but disdain for the intelligence community—especially when it comes to the connection between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. Trump’s refusal to look at anything related to that analysis has continued and expanded to the point where the “President’s Daily Brief” is no longer even read by Trump. Instead, it’s read by cabinet members, at least a few of whom hope to be able to sneak a fact over Trump’s threshold, so long as they don’t let him know that it was backed by actual data.
How bad is the disagreement?
- Trump said the nuclear threat from North Korea was “ended,” despite protests from analysts that North Korea is moving full speed ahead.
- Trump said that Iran was in violation of their nuclear agreement, even though analysts said there was no such information.
- Trump has repeatedly forced agencies to drop any mention of, or policies related to, climate change, even as the military insists planning for this issue is vital to national security.
- And most recently, Trump has refused to look at analysis, or listen to audio, showing that crown prince Mohammed bin Salman was behind the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
And when it comes to the Russia investigation, Trump is relying on something other than his gut: his boss.
One official said CIA employees were staggered by Trump’s performance during a news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki this summer at which he treated denials by Putin as so “strong and powerful” that they offset the conclusions of the CIA.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.