President Donald Trump continued to escalate his war with the intelligence community on Thursday, tweeting that “low-life leakers” who disclose details of “classified” investigations to the press “will be caught.”
“Leaking, and even illegal classified leaking, has been a big problem in Washington for years. Failing @nytimes (and others) must apologise!” Trump tweeted. “The spotlight has finally been put on the low-life leakers! They will be caught!”
The New York Times and Washington Post have published several bombshell reports over the past week about the intelligence community’s investigations into the Trump campaign’s contact with Russia during the election.
Those reports revealed that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn discussed sanctions with Russia’s ambassador to the US before Trump was sworn in, despite previously denying anything sensitive had been discussed on the calls. Trump asked for Flynn’s resignation Monday.
Subsequent reporting by the Times on Tuesday shed light on the “repeated” contact Trump associates appeared to have with Russian officials during the election. CNN followed up with its own report Tuesday night, citing sources who said the communication between Trump associates and Russia throughout the campaign had been “constant.”
The outlets cited dozens of current and former officials in total, but never specified that their sources came from within the intelligence community.
In apparent response to those reports, Trump tweeted Wednesday that “information is being illegally given to the failing @nytimes & @washingtonpost by the intelligence community (NSA and FBI?). Just like Russia.”
“The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy,” he continued. “Very un-American!”
On the campaign trail, Trump embraced the WikiLeaks organisation when it publishing emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta. But he has sought to discredit the intelligence community since before he was sworn in, at one point comparing their “illegal leaks” of “fake news” about his alleged ties to Russia to “Nazi Germany.“
In early January, just before 17 US intelligence agencies released a report detailing the extent to which Russia meddled in the US election, Trump suggested that officials had postponed briefing him on the “so-called ‘Russian hacking’ because they needed more time “to build a case.”
Now, Trump appears posed to launch a “broad review of American intelligence agencies” that will be overseen by New York billionaire Stephen Feinberg — a friend of Trump’s whose “only experience with national security matters is his firm’s stakes in a private security company and two gun makers,” the New York Times reported on Wednesday.
But the intelligence community may have its own ways of maintaining its independence.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday night that intelligence officials have begun to withhold information — primarily dealing with sources and methods — from the White House because of Trump’s “repeated expressions of admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his call during the presidential campaign for Russia to continue hacking the emails” of Clinton.
They also fear Trump could be compromised by Russia and resent his constant attacks on the community, the Journal said.
A spokesman for the Director of National Intelligence denied that the intel community would withhold information from the president, and a former CIA officer told Business Insider that “the system doesn’t work that way.”
“If there’s a concern about someone being compromised they remove that person,” said the former officer, speaking on condition of anonymity. “They don’t just stop providing intel. That’s crazy talk.”
“That being said,” the officer added, “we do live in unprecedented times.”
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