“Mr. Trump continues to exhibit paranoia about American intelligence agencies,” wrote the NeverTrump conservative Max Boot in The New York Times a week or so before the president took office.

“Consumed by his paranoia about the deep state, Donald Trump has disappeared into the fog of his own conspiracy theories,” declared the Times’ Maureen Dowd.

“Paranoia seizes Trump’s White House,” reported Politico, noting the suspicion that “career intelligence operatives are working to undermine the new president.”

Actually, they were. “It’s no mystery why Trump doesn’t trust U.S. intelligence agencies,” Bloomberg’s Eli Lake wrote last month. “As the old saying goes: Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. Trump understandably believes the intelligence agencies are out to get him.”

Of course, leaders in the intelligence community would deny they are out to get the president. But in an extraordinary new interview, one CIA veteran who served in the agency from 1980 to 2013, who briefed presidents on the most sensitive issues of the day, and is still a prominent voice in intelligence matters is at least conceding that he can understand why the president feels the way he does.

Michael Morell stayed out of politics when he served as the CIA’s number-two official. He was the classic nonpartisan operative who served the office, and not the man.

Until Trump. In August 2016, the retired-but-still-active-in-intelligence-matters Morell decided to abandon decades of nonpartisanship and come out in support of Hillary Clinton. In a New York Times op-ed, he praised Clinton’s experience and called Trump a danger to the nation, a threat to its “foundational values,” and an “unwitting agent” for Russia.

“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 told Glasser.

Some of Morell’s former colleagues in the intelligence community took the same step. Gen. Michael Hayden, a former CIA director, blasted Trump as Russia’s “useful fool.” Another former top CIA officer, Michael Vickers, pronounced Trump unfit. And the agency’s then-director, John Brennan, openly clashed with Trump.

These were all men who came out of the nonpolitical tradition of American intelligence. And all chose, for the first time, to publicly take sides in a presidential campaign.

Of course, it’s safe to say that each assumed Clinton would win. But when Trump prevailed, amazingly enough, he thought the intelligence agencies were against him.

“Let’s put ourselves in Donald Trump’s shoes,” Morell said to Glasser. “So what does he see? Right? He sees a former director of CIA and a former director of NSA, Mike Hayden ... 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?’”

The answer to that was simple: Yes, they were political. But the astonishing part of the Morell interview is his admission that at the time he did not stop to consider what was happening from Trump’s perspective, even as the leaks continued when Trump took office. “He must have thought, ‘Who are these guys?’” Morell said. “Are these guys out to get me? Is this a political organization?”

The first time Trump met the FBI’s then-director, James Comey, was when the intelligence chiefs chose Comey to tell Trump, then the president-elect, about a collection of “salacious and unverified” (Comey’s words) allegations about Trump, compiled by operatives working for the Clinton campaign, that has since become known as the Trump dossier. That surely got Trump off to a good start with the FBI’s intelligence-gathering operation. It was also a clever way for the intel chiefs to push the previously-secret dossier into the public conversation, when news leaked that Comey had briefed the president on it.

And on and on it went. Could anyone blame the new president for believing the intelligence agencies were after him?

Trump’s fellow New Yorker, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, warned the president against messing with the spy organizations. “Let me tell you: You take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday of getting back at you,” Schumer said in January.

Indeed, they did. And now, Michael Morell admits he went after the new president without even considering what that might mean. “I think there was a significant downside to those of us who became political,” he told Glasser. “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.”

Byron York is a nationally syndicated columnist.

(16) comments

Steve Fouga

I agree with the president's concerns that our intelligence apparatus is out to get him.

I assume they view him as a criminal and an enemy of the Republic, because they have adverse information gathered in sophisticated intelligence operations. It would be a dereliction of duty for them NOT to pursue him, if that's the case.

Carlos Ponce

Do "they have adverse information gathered in sophisticated intelligence operations"? Despite all the investigations NOTHING has emerged. As former Secret Service Agent Dan Bongino stated the charges brought against Flynn and others are tantamount to issuing an indictment for jaywalking. Nothing there.

Steve Fouga

Plenty has emerged. You're either denying it or not paying attention.

Carlos Ponce

Plenty has emerged... then tell me what has emerged that could lead to possible impeachment.

Steve Fouga

Collusion with an adversarial foreign power to influence a U.S. election. It's an admitted fact that associates of candidate Trump colluded with Russia to influence the election. It's not yet clear what Trump's personal involvement was, at least not to us.

Obstruction of justice is another impeachable offense. Trump's firing of Director Comey might eventually be an element of a case against him in that regard. The president admitted on TV that he fired Comey because he was tired of the Russia investigation, and also told Russian diplomats in private that the firing should ease the pressure he was feeling.

We don't know how far in hock Trump is to Russia, or whether Trump has been involved in money laundering like his campaign manager has. I bet Bob Mueller knows, one way or the other, but he has the good sense not to leak it to the media. If Trump is in debt to a foreign power, that could lead to impeachment, as could a history of money laundering. We'll eventually find out.

Carlos Ponce

Is collusion against the law ? Nope.
" It's an admitted fact that associates of candidate Trump colluded with Russia to influence the election." Show me where. There is NO evidence of this.
SF: "The president admitted on TV that he fired Comey because he was tired of the Russia investigation..." No.
"Mr. Trump and his aides gave multiple justifications for Mr. Comey’s dismissal in the days after he was fired. The first rationale was that the F.B.I. director had mishandled the Clinton email case. Another was that Mr. Comey had lost the confidence of the F.B.I. During an Oval Office meeting with Russian officials, Mr. Trump went so far as to call Mr. Comey a “nut job” and said that firing him lifted pressure off the White House."
As to the "letter" - "it is unclear how much of the letter’s rationale focuses on the Russia investigation."
So show me where he admitted on TV yadda, yadda, yadda.
CNN reports that Trump said "And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said 'you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won'," on NBC.
REALLY???? This shows he fired Comey over the Russia investigation? No it does not. What shear nonsense. Don't be hoodwinked, Steve, you're smarter than that!
Nothing here.

Steve Fouga

Have you quit following the news? Or are you being shielded from the facts by the outlets you follow? I'm pretty sure it's the latter.

I'm not going to get into a linking contest, Carlos, because that's not what I do. If you wanted to delve into the Russia story in depth, you could easily find everything I already know. Your research capabilities are unparalleled, except by Jim. Believe me, there is a LOT of information available on the campaign's collusion with Russia, the possibility of Trump's financial ties to Russia posing a conflict of interest, his reasons for firing Comey, etc.

You just have to be willing to believe news sources that won't shield you from the truth.

Carlos Ponce

I really think you need to quit watching FAKE news. There is nothing there. FAKE outlets flail their hands and start salivating, "We got him now!, We got him now!" Then it's Emily Lietella time, "Never mind!".
Don't be another Joy Behar.
I watch the news then evaluate it from multiple sources. There is nothing here. Donald Trump will NOT be impeached. You can put money on it!

Jim Forsythe

Flynn's jaywalking, is going to cost him? After Flynn's squealing like a pig, other hogs are being hunted.
He has faced scrutiny stemming from his failure to disclose income from Russia- and Turkey-linked entities, which are potential violations of the Foreign Agents Registration .  
Flynn’s consulting firm was paid $530,000 during the campaign for work that may have helped benefit the Turkish government.
He was also reportedly under investigation for a scheme that would have led to the forced extradition of a Muslim cleric considered an enemy of the Turkish government in exchange for millions of dollars, according to multiple outlets. 
 Flynn pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements to the FBI, which carries a maximum five years in prison. According to the plea deal Mueller negotiated with Flynn, he will face at most six months in prison and a $9,500 fine

Two of the hogs that were feeding from the trough of greed! Manafort and Gates.
The indictment filed in federal court in Washington accused both men of funneling tens of millions of dollars in payments through foreign companies and bank accounts as part of their political work in Ukraine. Manafort and Gates surrendered to federal authorities Monday, and were expected in court later in the day to face charges brought by Mueller's team.
The indictment lays out 12 counts including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, acting as an unregistered foreign agent, making false statements and several charges related to failing to report foreign bank and financial accounts. The indictment alleges that they moved money through hidden bank accounts in Cyprus, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the Seychelles.
In total, more than $75 million flowed through the offshore accounts. Manafort is accused of laundering more than $18 million, according to the indictment.
The indictment accuses Manafort and Gates of orchestrating a nearly decade-long conspiracy to covertly work for Ukrainian interests and launder millions of dollars through offshore accounts. Specifically, the indictment accuses Manafort of using "his hidden overseas wealth to enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States, without paying taxes on that income." That included using offshore accounts to purchase multimillion-dollar properties in the U.S., some of which the government is seeking to seize

Steve Fouga

Carlos, to be clear, I'm not rooting for Trump's impeachment. I feel he deserves impeachment, but it's not what I want to happen.

Carlos Ponce

Like you post, impeachment is not going to happen. Anti-Trumpers are just grandstanding for their constituents but in the meantime, nothing gets done.

Diane Turski

The Emperor (Imperial President Trump) has no clothes!!

Carlos Ponce

Every time we see President Trump he is fully clothed, Diane.

Gary Miller

All the inteligence agencies have one boss, The President. If they become troubling he can fire them all. None in congress or the courts have any say about who he fires. The constitution says it is his choice and duty alone.

Jim Forsythe

Has Donald Trump behave amiss, or betray their(our) public trust?
From this comes, would enough Republicans vote to remove him? At this, the answer would be not enough votes to remove him. This may change, after the midterm election next year. As the investigation goes on, it will revel the truth. If it come out that Trump has dirty hands, it could cause a backlash against the Republicans next year. It may not change the die- hard voters from each party, but could change Independent voters thinking.

 George Mason who offered up the term "high crimes and misdemeanors" as one of the criteria to remove public officials who abuse their office. Their original intentions can be gleaned by the phrases and words that were proposed before, such as "high misdemeanor", "maladministration", or "other crime". Edmund Randolf said impeachment should be reserved for those who "misbehave". Cotesworth Pinkney said, It should be reserved "...for those who behave amiss, or betray their public trust."

This is the catch all, for crimes the President may commit. This is where collusion could be charged !
As can be seen from all these references to "high crimes and misdemeanors", there is no concrete definition for the term, except to allow people to remove an official for office for subjective reasons entirely

Jarvis Buckley

Most of these posts are beyond ridiculous .

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Thank you for Reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.