Congressional Republicans Need to Ask Themselves One Critical Question

Published: January 31, 2019

By Jim Lichtman
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It’s time for Congressional Republicans to take a hard look in the mirror and ask themselves one critical question: Will you act in the best interests of the country or the interests of President Trump?

You can’t do both. Here’s why.

On January 29, FBI Director Christopher Wray, CIA Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Security Dan Coats – all Trump appointees – testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee to say, as journalist Peter Baker writes in The New York Times (Jan. 29), “They think pulling out of Syria and Afghanistan would be a debacle. They think North Korea cannot be trusted. They think the Islamic State is still a threat to America. They think Russia is bad and NATO is good.

“The trouble is their president does not agree.”

The details are spelled out in Director Coats’s Worldwide Threat Assessment released the same day.

One key point in that assessment concerns cyber security:

“Our adversaries and strategic competitors will increasingly use cyber capabilities — including cyber espionage, attack, and influence — to seek political, economic, and military advantage over the United States and its allies and partners.

 “China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea increasingly use cyber operations to threaten both minds and machines in an expanding number of ways — to steal information, to influence our citizens, or to disrupt critical infrastructure.”

The 42-page document does not contain a single mention of any threats on the U.S. southern border with Mexico, the primary cause of Trump’s recent government shutdown that lasted 35 days and cost the economy $11 billion.

“Just last month, Mr. Trump said that ‘we have won against ISIS; we’ve beaten them, and we’ve beaten them badly’ in announcing the withdrawal of American troops from Syria,” The New York Times reports (Jan. 29).

In blunt contrast, Dir. Coats “told lawmakers that the Islamic State would continue ‘to stoke violence’ in Syria. He was backed up by the written review, which said there were thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria and a dozen Islamic State networks around the world.

“The starkest contradiction drawn by the intelligence chiefs was their assessment of North Korea.

“Mr. Trump is expected to meet next month with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, in a second round of direct negotiations aimed at ridding Pyongyang of its nuclear weapons. After his last meeting, in Singapore, Mr. Trump tweeted that ‘there is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.’

“Mr. Coats described his concerns in opposite terms.

“He cited ‘some activity that is inconsistent with full denuclearization,’ adding that most of what North Korea has dismantled is reversible. He said the North’s ‘leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival.’ ”

Trump’s own blunt response: “Intelligence should go back to school!”

It took Trump probably less than a minute to examine their judgement and send his own assessment in a two-part tweet:

“The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong! When I became President Iran was making trouble all over the Middle East, and beyond. Since ending the terrible Iran Nuclear Deal, they are MUCH different, but…. — Donald J. Trump January 30, 2019

“….a source of potential danger and conflict. They are testing Rockets (last week) and more, and are coming very close to the edge. There economy is now crashing, which is the only thing holding them back. Be careful of Iran. Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!” — Donald J. Trump January 30, 2019

“Back to school!”?

This is the same Donald Trump who revoked ex-CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance after Brennan publicly criticized Trump’s judgments on intelligence. The same man whose hand-picked Defense secretary, James Mattis, resigned after Trump announced an abrupt pull-out of all troops in Syria.

This is a “chief executive” who thinks he knows more than thousands of analysts with decades of expertise examining critical threats.

It’s time for Congressional Republicans to choose between Trump, (and the roughly 40 percent who unequivocally support him), and a majority of the country that supports rigorous intelligence and analysis for the safety and security of the country.

You can’t have both.


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