At the joint press conference following their summit meeting, Donald Trump made an unusual statement where he seemed to suggest that he was more inclined to believe Russian president Vladimir Putin rather than his own intelligence agencies about Russia’s role in US elections.
“My people came to me, [Director of National Intelligence] Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
What is extraordinary is not that Trump may not believe entirely what his own intelligence people are telling him. He has a somewhat paranoid personality and seems to think that there is some ‘deep state’ conspiracy against him that includes the Washington establishment, the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, and who knows whom else.
What was unexpected was to say such things aloud while in
Moscow Helsinki in the presence of Putin at a time when there is a cacophony of voices suggesting that he is somehow beholden to the Russian leader. It was after all, a gratuitous statement that he could have easily omitted or sidestepped.
It puts the intelligence agencies in an awkward position and immediate questions were posed as to whether the heads of those agencies would resign at this sign of no confidence from their boss. There has been no response as yet and I doubt they will resign. The principled resignation is a rare species these days with political appointees. Coats did however issue a statement.
“The role of the Intelligence Community is to provide the best information and fact-based assessments possible for the President and policymakers. We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security,” Coats said.
The intelligence agencies routinely lie to the media and the American public, which is why the Democratic party establishment now portraying them as paragons of virtue and rectitude is so bizarre. But it was presumed that they tell the president the truth in private though they may shade the truth in pursuance of their own agendas.
So this kind of public disagreement between the president and the agencies that directly serve him is weird.