WASHINGTON — Donald Trump has got engaged in an ‘early’ fight with the Central Intelligence Agency over Russian computer hacking of American elections, an unprecedented move for any US president.
The simmering distrust between Donald Trump and U.S. intelligence agencies escalated into open antagonism Saturday after the president-elect mocked a CIA report that Russian operatives had intervened in the U.S. presidential election to help him win.
In a stunning response to widening claims of a Russian espionage operation targeting the presidential race, “Trump’s camp risked an early feud with the Intelligence community on which he will rely for top secret assessments of the greatest threats facing the United States,” CNN reported.
“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” the transition said in a terse, unsigned statement.
“The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.”
Trump’s reaction will probably deepen an existing rift between Trump and the agencies and raised questions about how the government’s 16 spying agencies will function in his administration on matters such as counterterrorism and cyberwarfare.
“Given his proclivity for revenge combined with his notorious thin skin, this threatens to result in a lasting relationship of distrust and ill-will between the president and the intelligence community,” said Paul Pillar, former deputy director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center.
U.S. intelligence officials described mounting concern and confusion about how to proceed in an administration so openly hostile to their function and role. “I don’t know what the end game is here,” a senior U.S. intelligence official said. “After Jan. 20,” the official said, referring to Inauguration Day, “we’re in uncharted territory.”
Pillar added: “Everything Trump has indicated with regard to his character and tendencies for vindictiveness might be worse” than former president Richard Nixon, who also had a dysfunctional relationship with the intelligence community.
On Friday, members of Trump’s transition team dismissed the CIA’s assessments about Iraq’s stockpile of weapons of mass destruction.