Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Trump DNI appointment would subvert American intelligence

Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, is being replaced by a Trump loyalist - assuming he is confirmed by the Senate. Trump’s Message to U.S. Intelligence Officials: Be Loyal or Leave writes David Rohde, an Executive Editor of newyorker.com. Scriber thinks that this might be the single most dangerous action that Trump has taken. The danger lies in abandoning 40 years of the intelligence community speaking “truth to power” in favor of speaking what the great leader wants to hear. We’ve been through that. Faulty intelligence was what Dubya wanted to hear and that led to the Iraq war. And now we are faced with the possibility of a Trump sycophant as DNI. What could go wrong?

That’s the short version. Here is more from Rohde.

This past Wednesday, during Robert Mueller’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Representative John Ratcliffe, a Republican from Texas who was previously a federal prosecutor, accused the former special counsel of illegally smearing President Trump. Ratcliffe demanded to know why Mueller had stated in Volume II of his report—which investigated whether the President had obstructed justice—that, “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” His voice rising, Ratcliffe said that the sentence “was not authorized under the law to be written” and violated a “bedrock principle of our justice system.” He urged Americans to ignore the “Democrats and socialists on the other side of the aisle” who cited it. Fact checkers found Ratcliffe’s claims to be false, but he ended his appearance with a dramatic flourish. “I agree with the chairman this morning when he said Donald Trump is not above the law. He’s not,” Ratcliffe said, his voice rising. “But he damn sure shouldn’t be below the law, which is where Volume II of this report puts him.”

In a Sunday-morning interview on Fox News, Ratcliffe again demonstrated his support for the President, declaring that “it was a great week for Donald Trump.” The congressman claimed that Mueller did “not have a command” of what was in the report, which, he said, had been written by “Hillary Clinton’s de-facto legal team.” He said that Trump deserved a presumption of innocence, then added, “What I do know, as a former federal prosecutor, is that it does appear that there were crimes committed during the Obama Administration.” Ratcliffe then praised an unprecedented review that Attorney General William Barr is conducting of the work of the F.B.I. and key intelligence agencies in the launch of the 2016 Trump-Russia investigation, saying, “Bill Barr has earned my trust already and the trust of the American people.”

Six hours later, Trump nominated Ratcliffe to be the most powerful intelligence official in the country, replacing Dan Coats, who is stepping down as the director of National Intelligence. Sources told the Times that Trump enjoyed watching Ratcliffe aggressively question Mueller, but denied that this was the reason the Texas congressman got the job. …

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… The Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer, disagreed, issuing a statement that said, “It’s clear that Rep. Ratcliffe was selected because he exhibited blind loyalty to President Trump with his demagogic questioning of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller.”

James Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence … said in an e-mail that it is the President’s prerogative to nominate whom he wishes. But he added that the nomination of a Trump loyalist to replace Coats sends a clear message to members of the intelligence community: “Obviously, the President wants someone in this position whose first priority is loyalty to Donald Trump.”

Clapper also expressed concern about the effect that appointing Ratcliffe could have on intelligence officials whose job it is to present apolitical information to policymakers. “I worry about the people in the Intelligence Community, and the impact of being directed to write intelligence analyses that comport with the Presidents’ world view, and not their best judgement as to the facts,” he wrote. “Over time, this could be very dangerous to the country. ‘Truth to power’ is a crucial, rock-bed tenet of US intelligence, and Dan Coats upheld that.”

Senator Angus King, a Maine Independent who caucuses with the Democrats and serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, declined to comment on Ratcliffe. But he, too, warned of the dangers of politicizing intelligence. “We have gotten in trouble in this country in the past when we have cherry-picked intelligence for political purposes or to suit the needs of the President,” he told the Times. “That is the worst thing that can happen.”

There is a very good chance of seriously bad effects of a Ratcliffe as DNI.

Most important, Ratcliffe is a full-throated backer of Trump’s practice of trafficking in conspiracy theories for political gain; he has joined the President’s effort to claim that it wasn’t the myriad contacts between Trump campaign aides and Russian officials that led to Mueller investigation but, rather, that the inquiry was part of a “deep state” conspiracy. Ratcliffe has repeatedly claimed that Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump, colluded with Russia and that a cabal of C.I.A. and F.B.I. officials, working with foreign intelligence services, carried out a global conspiracy to entrap Trump aides.

That’s why the AZBlueMeanie thinks that America is about to experience Stalinesque events: Coming this fall: Show trials for U.S. intelligence agents who investigated Russian interference in 2016. Citing another report on AG Barr’s investigation of the investigators:

Meanwhile Barr’s “investigation into the investigators” is underway, and the attorney general has said he is working very closely with Horowitz. The inspector general can recommend prosecutions, and U.S. Attorney John Durham, whom Barr tasked to lead the review, has the ability to convene a grand jury and subpoena people outside of the government. Beyond that, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally, has promised a “deep dive” into the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation after Horowitz completes his work.

Fair warning: this is developing into “prosecute the investigators” with Stalinist show trials this fall as Trump has long demanded. And that may include members of the Obama administration, including President Obama himself, as Trump has frequently suggested. This is the stuff of authoritarian banana republics and dictatorships.

Trump has already captured the Department of Justice with the corrupt William Barr who has turned the department into Trump’s personal law firm to defend Trump, and to pursue his political enemies.

Now Trump is tying up loose ends by getting rid of his Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coates, and trying to replace him with a Trump loyalist and conspiracy monger, the aforementioned Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX). Trump’s nominee to lead America’s intelligence agencies has an unusually thin résumé …

Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) is entirely unqualified and unfit to serve as Director of National Intelligence. Trump wants this conspiracy mongering Trump loyalist in this position for the Stalinist show trials of current and former intelligence community agents that he and his “fixer,” William “Coverup” Barr are planning for this fall, as Michael Tomasky warned. You Think It’s Bad Now? Wait for Next Year’s Show Trials

This is the stuff of authoritarian banana republics and dictatorships. If this is where Donald Trump and his “fixer” William Barr are taking this nation this fall, we have already crossed the Rubicon into authoritarianism, and our democracy is in grave peril.

The goal is to chill any intelligence efforts into ongoing Russian interference in the 2020 election, leaving our elections vulnerable to Russian attacks to “reelect” Trump.

Contact your senators and demand that they oppose the nomination of Rep. John Ratcliffe.

Rhode wraps it up.

… The bitter partisanship that Trump intentionally fuels is eroding a forty-year consensus in Washington regarding the need for apolitical intelligence. Fuelled by Trump, Republicans believe that intelligence agencies are plotting against the President; Democrats, in turn, are convinced the President is silencing intelligence chiefs who disagree with him.

Whether Ratcliffe becomes the director of National Intelligence now rests with the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee, which must confirm his nomination, once Trump formally submits it, before passing it on for a full Senate vote. The committee’s chairman, Richard Burr, of North Carolina, has done an admirable job of producing a bipartisan investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Burr, who is not running for reëlection, is one of a handful of Republican senators with the ability to defy Trump. He reportedly cautioned the White House that Ratcliffe was too political for such a powerful position. Trump named Ratcliffe anyway.

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