OPED: Washington Post Story Claiming
America's Security Is At Risk Due To Trump-Russia Ties "Fake News"
A long front-page story in the
Washington Post Friday that claims America’s security is at risk because
President Trump refuses to accept findings of U.S. intelligence agencies
that Russia interfered in our 2016 presidential election is deeply
flawed and amounts to fake news.
I reach this conclusion based on my 25 years working in and with the
U.S. intelligence community. It is clear to me that the Post story is
designed to advance the left’s teetering Trump-Russia collusion
And I reach the same conclusion on a related allegation by the
Washington Post in the same story that President Trump’s intelligence
briefings are playing down or omitting intelligence on Russia’s role in
the presidential election. This issue has liberal journalists and former
intelligence officials claiming that intelligence is being politicized
to avoid offending the president.
The Post article’s authors – Greg Miller, Greg Jaffe and Philip Rucker –
say that a Jan. 6 Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) said it was an
“objective reality” that Russia meddled our election to help Donald
Trump win. The Post article repeatedly asserts that President Trump’s
refusal to accept this assessment means he is refusing to recognize the
threat to U.S. national security posed by Russia.
The truth is that the January ICA is far from objective truth and had
serious problems. I broke the story on Fox News.com last January that
this assessment appeared to be rigged to produce a conclusion to hurt
President Trump politically.
Because intelligence community procedures on drafting this type of
analysis were not followed and it reflected the views of only three
intelligence agencies – not all 17 as the mainstream media claimed. The
New York Times was forced to publish a correction on this point last
Even worse, as I explained in a May 12 Fox News op-ed, the January ICA
on Russian interference in the 2016 election was drafted by a group of
about two dozen hand-picked analysts, a major violation of intelligence
So what did the Washington Post article say about the huge problems with
the January ICA? Absolutely nothing.
In addition, the Post article’s allegations of politicization of
President Trump’s Presidential Daily Briefings are extremely misleading.
According to the article, the briefer who sees the president every
morning often structures his presentations to avoid upsetting the
president. The article also claims that analysis about Russia “that may
draw Trump’s ire is in some cases included only in the written
assessment and not raised orally.”
There is no scandal here. President Trump’s Presidential Daily Briefing,
a highly classified document about 10 pages long, is not excluding any
intelligence on Russia. The Post article omits that by tradition, the
oral briefing is as short or long as the president wants. The article
also doesn’t mention that CIA Director Mike Pompeo briefs the president
A more important omission: the article fails to mention that Presidents
Clinton and Obama often would not meet with their briefers on the
Presidential Daily Briefing at all because the presidents did not like
what the briefers had to say. I wrote about this in 2014. Marc Thiessen
wrote a similar column in 2012 published in The Washington Post – a
publication that Washington Post reporters presumably should be aware
So in fairness, shouldn’t President Trump be credited for meeting with
his Presidential Daily Briefing briefer every day, after President Obama
refused to do so?
Miller, Jaffe and Rucker also try to shore up the deteriorating
narrative of collusion between President Trump and his advisers with the
Russians. The reporters claim that the president’s skepticism about
intelligence assessments of Russian meddling in the election and his
interest in establishing a working relationship with Russia represents
Never mind that no evidence whatsoever of such collusion between Trump
or his campaign and Russia to influence the presidential election has
surfaced, despite multiple investigations since mid-2016. The reporters
also ignored that the Obama administration sought to establish a working
relationship with Russia. Remember Hillary Clinton’s “Russia Reset?”
I believe President Trump’s reluctance to accept the findings of U.S.
intelligence agencies on Russian election meddling is understandable,
given the major flaws in the January 2017 ICA as well as the incredible
hostility that intelligence officers expressed against him before and
after the election.
Current and former intelligence officers have been trying to undermine
Donald Trump since the summer of 2016 by calling him “a traitor,”
stating they would refuse to brief him when he was a presidential
candidate and leaking details of his intelligence briefings to the
I have long believed that this disrespectful and irresponsible behavior
severely damaged the relationship between U.S. intelligence agencies and
President Trump. I was stunned when former Deputy CIA Director Michael
Morell recently appeared to concede this point.
Morell, who wrote an August 2016 New York Times op-ed calling candidate
Trump a “threat to our national security,” told Politico’s Susan Glasser
earlier this month that he and other intelligence officers failed to
think through the consequences of their partisan attacks on the man who
would go on to become our president.
While partisan efforts by intelligence officers to undermine President
Trump hurt the intelligence community’s relationship with him, CIA
Director Pompeo fortunately seems to have used his close relationship
with the president to reverse this damage. Not surprisingly, the
Washington Post story makes no mention of this.
Finally, the Post story misses the boat on President Obama’s decision in
late December 2016 to expel Russian diplomats and close two Russian
diplomatic compounds to punish Moscow for interfering in the 2016
The article discusses at length how the Trump administration considered
lifting these sanctions. However, it fails to discuss how the sanctions
likely were imposed by the Obama administration to sabotage President
Trump’s Russia policy.
President Obama imposed these sanctions on December 29, 2016. It was
extraordinary for an outgoing president with only 22 days in office to
take such dramatic action without the consent of the president-elect,
even though the sanctions were certain to result in retaliation by
Russia during the next president’s term.
One has to ask why President Obama chose December 29, 2016 to sanction
Russia when Russia had committed many other heinous acts during his
presidency, such as invading and seizing Crimea and supporting rebels in
Ukraine who shot down a Malaysian Air flight in 2014.
President Obama’s 11th hour Russia sanctions were not just an attempt to
sabotage the Trump administration’s Russia policy. They also were a trap
to catch Trump officials in a supposed Logan Act violation by discussing
these sanctions with Russian officials before Trump was sworn in.
The Logan Act is a law enacted in 1799 that criminalizes attempts by
private citizens to intervene without authorization to try to negotiate
disputes or controversies between the U.S. and foreign governments. No
one has ever been convicted of violating the law.
It is no accident that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn
reportedly fell into the Logan Act trap when he discussed the Russia
sanctions with Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak.
A National Security Agency transcript of the Flynn-Kislyak discussion
was illegally leaked to the media. Anti-Trump Justice Department
official Sally Yates, who briefly served as acting attorney general
before she was fired by President Trump, used this intelligence against
Flynn with Trump administration officials.
It’s too bad that the authors of the Post article did not explore the
suspicious nature of President Obama’s last-minute Russia sanctions on
Russia. The sanctions appear to have been part of a larger strategy by
the Obama administration, the Clinton campaign and the Democratic
National Committee to abuse the enormous power of U.S. intelligence
agencies, the FBI, the Justice Department, and the Office of the
President to discredit and defeat candidate Trump and then cause
problems for President Trump.
But expecting the Washington Post to do these things is too much to hope
for from one of America’s leading Fake News outlets.
Fred Fleitz is senior vice president for policy and programs with the
Center for Security Policy, a national security think tank. Follow him