US intelligence agencies are said to be keeping some sensitive information away from President Donald Trump over concerns about potential leaks, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday night.
The newspaper said current and former US officials have said their hesitations are due in part to lingering questions over possible links between Trump associates and Russia, which they said could potentially compromise the security of such classified information.
Specifically, the officials cited by The Journal said they were hesitant to reveal the “sources and methods” that intelligence agencies use to collect information. That is not an unusual departure from protocol, Journal writers Shane Harris and Carol Lee wrote. Intelligence officials sometimes withhold details from the president and other high-level government leaders to protect a source, the officials said.
But, Trump has had a tenuous relationship with the US intelligence community for some time. The people interviewed by The Journal said that is one of the reasons for their reticence to share sensitive information with the president.
Trump has frequently alternated between railing against US spy agencies and then praising them, as he did in January during an appearance at the CIA. He has accused the same agencies of pursuing “politically motivated” investigations even as they concluded that Russia tried to interfere in the US election.
Rep. Adam Schiff of California, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said in an interview with The Journal, the intelligence community considers protecting their sources and the people cultivating them to be “their most sacred obligation.”
Schiff added, referring to Trump: “I’m sure there are people in the community who feel they don’t know where he’s coming from on Russia.”
Trump’s apparent distrust of US spy agencies has manifested in his public statements — most recently on Wednesday when he described “intelligence” leaking classified information “like candy” as “very un-American.”
During a press conference with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, Trump reprised his criticisms of intelligence leaks, calling it “a criminal act” while vigorously defending his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
Flynn resigned on Monday over fallout from a phone call he had with a Russian ambassador before Trump’s inauguration.
Trump lobbed a familiar accusation at those who have raised questions about the controversies roiling his administration — that they were bitter about Hillary Clinton losing the election.
Here’s more from The Journal:
“This is not about who won the election. This is about concerns about institutional integrity,” said Mark Lowenthal, a former senior intelligence official. “It’s probably unprecedented to have this difficult a relationship between a president and the intelligence agencies,” Mr. Lowenthal said. “I can’t recall ever seeing this level of friction. And it’s just not good for the country.”
For its part, the White House told the newspaper: “There is nothing that leads us to believe that this is an accurate account of what is actually happening.”
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