Donald Trump’s dislike of U.S. intelligence agencies is no secret, but the intelligence agencies continue to try to interest Trump in knowing … anything about anything they monitor. And if that means thinking about money to the exclusion of all else, the CIA and other agencies will tailor their presidential briefings to talk about money.
Trump’s interest in economic questions above all else can get at important issues, like a closer consideration of China and trade issues—though Trump’s conclusions about what to do there have been predictably awful—but it can also lead, the New York Times reports, to this: “When Russia seized [Ukrainian] sailors and ships in the Sea of Azov, officials in Washington began studying the implications to shipping.” Which … okay, but … maybe not the first concern there?
In intelligence as in everything else, Trump wants to hear what he wants to hear, and isn’t interested in inconvenient facts. Michael Morell, a former CIA official who briefed Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama, says that while they might disagree with his presentations and debate him, “that discussion was substantive. It wasn’t based on whether something is consistent with your worldview or the policy line you have taken.” All the reporting—and everything we know about Trump—points to a very different approach now, and we can see that playing out in things like his humiliating meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
Having a president with a healthy skepticism of U.S. intelligence agencies who pushes to look at angles outside the norm could be a great thing for the U.S. and the world. Having a president who refuses to hear anything he doesn’t like and filters everything through his personal business lens is a disaster, just as Donald Trump is a disaster on so many other fronts.
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