Having a Lack of Intelligence
So many things to choose from for today. Indeed, to show how overloaded it was, we're going to skip over long-time Trump associate Roger Stone getting sentenced to almost 3-1/2 years in prison, with Judge Amy Berman Jackson issues a scathing rebuke of both Stone and an unnamed Trump in her ruling. And we're going to pass by Trump naming his ally Richard Grenell to be the Acting Director of National Intelligence, despite having zero experience in the field -- one of the literal requirements in the law written for the job. Though as merely an "acting" director, the requirement can be avoided.
Instead, for me, the biggest story was the New York Times article about the reason Grenell was able to be hired in the first place. And that's because -- according to the article -- the previous acting Director of National Intelligence Admiral Joseph had sent an aide to brief the House Intelligence Committee about numerous reports that Russia would be trying to involve itself in the 2020 election on behalf of Trump, and Trump found out about the briefing, went through the roof furious, and fired Admiral Maguire for doing his job and honestly briefing the House Intelligence Committee with serious intelligence on national security
That is not a good thing.
(A quick side note: That we continually keep having "acting" Directors of National Intelligence and not a full-time professional in the job is another matter that is -- not a good thing.)
Almost worse in the story is that apparently intelligence officials were considering watering down the report so that Trump wouldn't be upset about it, if word got to him, as they suspected it would. As intelligence experts said, the fact that the DNI was even considering softening the briefing is a major problem because the whole point of intelligence is that is delivered honestly and openly, in full.
By the way, jumping back a moment to the whole "if Trump found out" thing. The briefing was specifically and solely to the House Intelligence Committee. Trump was not informed about it. The way he did find out about it is -- and I know this won't shock you -- Republican ranking member of the committee Devin Nunes told him. Of course he did.
To be clear, there is nothing illegal about this. While Intelligence Committee members are not to talk about what goes on in their private meetings, they can discuss it with other authorized personnel. And Trump obviously has security clearance and is authorized. But as committee member Jim Himes added, it's one thing to not be a legal matter, it's another to be a Constitutional matter -- since Congress is set up in the Constitution to be a check on the Presidency. And passing along information from secret House committee meeting to the president -- especially over an issue concerning the president -- is problematic.
But there's another matter about the briefing that is perhaps as troubling as Trump's crazed reaction to it. And that's what came in a report from The Daily Best on the meeting. You would think -- and most-especially want -- all of Congress to be concerned about a intelligence reports that Russia was going to be trying to involve itself in the U.S. presidential elections, on behalf of one of the candidates. Instead, according to the article, Republicans on the committee "went nuts" on the intelligence aide, Shelby Pierson, giving the briefing.
“‘The Republicans [on the committee] went nuts,’ over Pierson’s presentation, the member told The Daily Beast. A second source familiar with the briefing said that Republicans didn’t understand why the Kremlin would try to boost Trump, since he had been so tough on Russia, in their view. Reps. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) and Chris Stewart (R-UT) — who according to The Times, has been a Trump favorite to replace Maguire — were particularly vocal in their skepticism, the member said.”
You can read the full article here.
And it goes further. Overlapping with Devin Nunes (R-CA) -- of course. The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee was on "Fox News" last night. And he publicly dismissed the intelligence services reports Russia was going to try to involve itself in the 2020 election -- something I suspect most Americans have expected for the past three years. But not Mr. Nunes, despite zero evidence on his part. “I don’t think anyone is buying it," he said, "I just left a big — a huge Republican dinner here in the San Joaquin Valley of California, President Trump was out yesterday, it was actually a joke tonight, Nobody is going to believe this garbage.”
My sense is that his definition of "nobody" is a unique one.
And this is the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee. And those were the Republicans going "nuts" on the House Intelligence Committee. And here they are, "going nuts," disavowing without any evidence in the slightest that intelligence services say Russia is going to do -- again -- what we know they've already done!!!
All of which brings us around to the point you know. And it's that although this here started with Trump and his firing of his acting Director of National Intelligence for doing his job and telling the truth -- this is not about Trump, we know who he is. This is about the elected members of the Republican Party who enable him and are complicit. And literally put us all at risk.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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