Another blow has been struck in the conflict between President Trump and the Intelligence Community. But chances are, you have not heard much about why this happened. The downfall of Michael Flynn has become a blight on the administration just one month into President Trump’s presidency.
National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was in contact with the Russian government before Trump was inaugurated. He spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak five times. At least one of these conversations took place after former President Obama imposed sanctions on the Russian government in retaliation for Russia’s attempt to influence the outcome of the presidential election.
While the transcripts of the conversations are not available, it is now believed that Flynn spoke with the Russians about the sanctions. This has led some to believe Flynn violated the Logan Act, which prohibits private citizens from engaging in foreign policy. These findings led to his resignation on Monday, February 13th.
Focusing on the leaked information is easy. However, the impetus behind the leaks is equally important. There are many who believe the leaks were the result of the ongoing feud between President Trump and the Intelligence Community. Similar concerns arose when CNN published a story regarding a dossier alleging the Russian government possessed sensitive information on President Trump.
So, do these leaks constitute a retaliatory attack against the President? Or, was it simply a mistake made by a high-level official?
Here is what we know. President Trump has questioned the competence of our intelligence agencies on several different occasions. He has expressed doubts about their findings regarding the election hacking. He has done this publically.
On January 2nd, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) issued the President a warning about the intelligence community, “Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.” It appears that these recent leaks are evidence that Schumer may have been right.
Spencer Ackerman, the Guardian’s National Security Editor states that there are two “factions” within the Intelligence Community. Each faction has their point of view on the Trump administration and Michael Flynn. The first group was focused more on Flynn than on President Trump. Ackerman writes,
This faction is not naturally inclined to dislike Trump and tends to see the threat of terrorism in urgent and very broad terms. It wants a more aggressive posture than Barack Obama’s drone strikes and counter-terrorism raids. But it has been disturbed by Trump’s seeming indebtedness to Russia – which this faction viscerally understands to be an enemy of the US – his casual disrespect of the intelligence agencies and his chaotic internal decision-making process.
This group sees Flynn’s ties to Russia as a barrier to a healthy working relationship between the Intelligence Community and the Trump administration. He goes on to write, “By removing Flynn, this faction can accept a detente with Trump, who wants to cultivate the agencies.”
The second group is more concerned about President Trump himself. Ackerman states,
Another faction, particularly evident amongst intelligence analysts, considers Flynn merely a reflection of Trump. Some in this camp consider Russian interference in the election to be the central fact of the Trump presidency. They are divided on predicting whether it will lead to Trump’s downfall or their own.
This group has opted to take a more “hawkish” approach to the Trump administration. Ackerman goes on to say,
This faction believes Trump is reckless, beholden to Russia, and unlikely to change. Former officials believe it must either withstand Trump’s bellicose impulses or attempt to resist them. They consider Flynn’s resignation to be neither a gesture of reconciliation nor a move that will mollify them.
Further exacerbating the issue is the fact that the media is focusing more on the scandal itself than on the illegal actions that exposed it. Both are important. The idea that the Intelligence Community is willing to engage in illegal activities to strike a blow against President Trump should be of great concern to all Americans.
According to Thomas Lifson of American Thinker,
Note that the law was broken by whoever leaked the transcripts to the media. Not only is the crime underlying the “scandal” being ignored, but the criminals are being hailed. On Morning Joe’s first hour today, the host, a former congressman (i.e., a lawmaker) himself, called the leakers “heroes.”
He goes on to write,
This interference in domestic politics by the CIA should be regarded as a major threat to our democracy, but of course, our Trump-hating domestic media are reveling in a major point scored against the new president.
Going forward, the Trump administration and the Intelligence Community must learn how to work together. Conflicts such as these can quickly become dangerous for the country. The President must be willing to deal with the Intelligence Community directly instead of using Twitter to air his grievances. Intelligence officials need to find ways to collaborate with the administration instead of acting as a shadow government.
If these two parties are not able to settle their differences, the results could be catastrophic. The success of our foreign policy depends on active collaboration between the executive branch and intelligence agencies. There is simply too much at stake for that relationship to deteriorate.