Donald Trump hints he may want to completely overhaul the U.S. intelligence community

The president-elect doesn't like what the intelligence community says about Russia; now he wants to revamp it

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published January 5, 2017 12:55PM (EST)

 (AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth/Getty/Gary Gershoff/badmanproduction)
(AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth/Getty/Gary Gershoff/badmanproduction)

President-elect Donald Trump is doing more than just denouncing the intelligence community for insisting that Russia was behind the email hacks against Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. He is now saying he wants to transform the intelligence community to his liking.

Individuals close to the Trump Transition team claim he is working with advisers on a plan to restructure and scale down the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, according to The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. The DNI office oversees 16 independent United States government agencies that conduct intelligence activities, including the CIA and the Intelligence Branch of the FBI.

Although the sources claim Trump is motivated by a belief that the DNI has become "bloated and politicized," Trump's decision would inevitably raise questions about whether he is motivated by anger over the consensus view throughout the intelligence community that Russia was behind the election hacking activities.

"The view from the Trump team is the intelligence world has become completely politicized," said one source to The Wall Street Journal. "They all need to be slimmed down. The focus will be on restructuring the agencies and how they interact."

One major source of confusion is that Trump has shared the intelligence community's conclusions on virtually every major foreign policy issue except for those involving Russia.

Yet whenever the intelligence community has insisted that Russia hacked the 2016 election in order to help Trump defeat Clinton, the president-elect has turned against them. This has ranged from issuing a statement in December dismissing the CIA's findings on the grounds that "these are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction" to tweets like these from earlier in the week.


"We have two choices: some guy living in an embassy on the run from the law…who has a history of undermining American democracy and releasing classified information to put our troops at risk, or the 17 intelligence agencies sworn to defend us," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R- South Carolina, told The Wall Street Journal. "I’m going with them."

Graham has also taken to Twitter to counter the Trump-ian narrative on Assange.


Other Republican commentators, like talk show host Hugh Hewitt, have previously expressed hope that Trump is in fact manipulating Russia — an implicit acknowledgment that, if his apparent actions are genuine, they are also suspicious.

In a similar vein, it appears intelligence agencies did not have conclusive evidence of Russia's responsibility for the election hacking until after Election Day, according to a Thursday morning report by Reuters.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Cia Donald Trump Elections 2016 Fbi Office Of The Director Of National Intelligence Russia Hacking