In a revealing interview with Politico this weekend, Michael Morell, a CIA veteran who worked for the agency from 1980 to 2013 and ultimately rose to become the number two man behind the director, said that he was beginning to think the intelligence community messed up big time when they went political in 2016. And while Morell is far from establishing himself as a fan of President Donald Trump, he told reporter Susan Glasser that he understood why Trump believed the intelligence agencies were out to get him. They did, after all, give him every reason to come to that conclusion.
In explaining his decision to be one of the first former intelligence professionals to publicly criticize the Republican nominee in August of 2016, Morell said, “I was so deeply concerned about what a Trump presidency might look like from a national security perspective, and believed that there was such a gap between Secretary Clinton and Donald Trump with regard to how well they would protect the country, that I thought it extremely important to come out and say that.”
Morell opened the floodgates. Before the year was out, former CIA Director Michael Hayden, former top CIA official Michael Vickers, and the then-current director of the agency, John Brennan, had all made public, political statements criticizing Donald Trump as unfit for the presidency. These career intelligence officers, who had forged a government reputation for staying above the weeds of politics, were suddenly right in the middle of an election, casting their lot with the Democrats.
“Let’s put ourselves in Donald Trump’s shoes,” Morell said. “So what does he see? Right? He sees a former director of CIA and a former director of NSA criticizing him and his policies. Right? And he would rightfully have said, ‘Huh, what’s going on with the intelligence guys?’
“And then he sees a former acting director and deputy director of CIA criticizing him and endorsing his opponent,” Morell continued. “And then he gets his first intelligence briefing, after becoming the Republican nominee, and within 24 to 48 hours, there are leaks out of that that are critical of him and his then-national security adviser Mike Flynn. And so, this stuff starts to build, right? And he must have said to himself, ‘What is it with these intelligence guys? Are they political?'”
Did Trump even need to ask? They were “political” the moment they entered the ring of politics, which they did with apparently no forethought about how these endorsements and criticisms would affect the reputation – not just of themselves but of the agencies they were purporting to represent.
“I think there was a significant downside to those of us who became political,” Morell now realizes. “So, if I could have thought of that, would I have ended up in a different place? I don’t know. But it’s something I didn’t think about.”
Yeah, well you go ahead and think about that. Meanwhile, America’s faith in the intelligence community is at an all-time low, thanks to you and your colleagues trading your reputations for Democrat shekels. Hope it was worth it.