The gut versus the intel

Intelligence officials are, not surprisingly, frustrated that Trump is too lazy and too stupid to pay attention to what they tell him.

Donald Trump continues to reject the judgments of US spy agencies on major foreign policy fronts, current and former US officials said, creating a dynamic in which intelligence analysts frequently see troubling gaps between the president’s public statements and the facts laid out for him in daily briefings.

The pattern has become a source of mounting concern to senior US intelligence officials who had hoped Mr Trump would become less hostile to their work and more receptive to the information that spy agencies spend billions of dollars and sometimes put lives at risk gathering.

Trump can’t “become” anything. He’s stuck fast as himself, and can’t modify a single atom.

Instead, presidential distrust that once seemed confined mainly to the intelligence community’s assessments about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election has spread across a range of global issues.

Among them are North Korea’s willingness to abandon its nuclear weapons program, Iran’s nuclear and regional ambitions, the existence and implications of global climate change and the role of the Saudi crown prince in the murder of a dissident journalist.

So just minor stuff then.

US officials involved in interactions with the White House said the disconnect between spy agencies and the president is without precedent and that senior analysts have spent the past year struggling to find ways to adapt to an arrangement they describe as dysfunctional.

[F]or every area of agreement, there are examples of significant disparity. Mr Trump, for example, asserted in June that because of his administration’s negotiations with Pyongyang, there is “no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.” US intelligence officials said there is no such view among analysts.

Mr Trump accused Iran of violating a 2015 nuclear agreement with the US and other major powers despite assessments by American spy agencies and allies that Tehran was in compliance.

More recently, Mr Trump has claimed his decision to abandon the nuclear deal had forced Iran into regional retreat and led to turnover in the top ranks of its government.

“They’re a much, much different group of leaders,” the president said in June.

But CIA assessments do not describe any such shift, officials said, noting Iran’s religious rulers remain firmly entrenched and that the country continues to uses proxies to fuel conflict across the Middle East.

He just makes it up. He probably doesn’t even realize he’s making it up – he probably thinks that if it’s in his head, that means it’s true. He gives every appearance of not understanding that there is a difference between truth and made-up bullshit, and that it’s not all just a matter of who is sitting in the Big Boy Seat.

One official said CIA employees were staggered by Mr Trump’s performance during a news conference with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki earlier this year in which Mr Trump treated denials by the Russian president as so “strong and powerful” they offset the conclusions of the CIA.

“There was this gasp” among those watching at CIA, the official said. “You literally had people in panic mode watching it at Langley. On all floors. Just shock.”

“I think you definitely do see a bewilderment and a concern over the president’s conduct and relationship to the intelligence community,” said representative Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the house intelligence committee, who frequently visits with senior CIA officials on overseas trips.

Mr Trump’s disagreements are not driven by “questions about their methodology or differing interpretations of the same facts,” Mr Schiff said. “He wants to tell an alternate narrative.”

That’s what I mean. He thinks it’s just a matter of stories, and the boss’s story gets to prevail, because the boss is the boss. That applies only when he’s the boss of course, but now that he is the boss, that state of affairs has become internal, in his mind.

Mr Trump has frequently noted blunders by US spy agencies, particularly in the run-up to the Iraq War. He has also been dismissive of other experts in his administration, saying his own instincts are superior. “I have a gut,” he said in an interview last month, “and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me.”

What I’m saying. He thinks it’s true because he says it’s true. It’s magical thinking, and he thinks magic is real.

5 Responses to “The gut versus the intel”