Cut Off Trump Access To Intelligence, Says Former Top Spy
When they leave office it is customary that former presidents can be briefed on national security issues as they might affect their lives as private citizens or official U.S. government envoys. Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama are trusted with classified information to support their continued involvement in advancing America’s interests.
Donald Trump should not be. That’s the opinion of Susan M. Gordon, a 30-plus-year veteran of the intelligence community who served as principal deputy director of national intelligence in the Trump administration from 2017 to 2019. In a Washington Post op-ed, Gordon writes, “These briefings have been a matter of respectful convention and were granted by the new president to the old. But convention left the premises a long time ago with President Trump, and his demonstrated approach to national security and intelligence suggest that a more purposeful decision must be made about providing intelligence to this soon-to-be former president.”
Early in his presidency Trump demonstrated a shocking and dangerous lack of maturity in his handling of classified information, blabbing to Russian diplomats in the Oval Office about U.S. intelligence operations. And throughout his term Trump more often than not refused to receive the Presidential Daily Briefing. Gordon writes that once President-elect Joe Biden takes office he should cut off Trump’s access to the intelligence community to “mitigate one aspect of the potential national security risk posed by Donald Trump, private citizen.
“His post-White House ‘security profile,’ as the professionals like to call it, is daunting. Any former president is by definition a target and presents some risks. But a former president Trump, even before the events of last week, might be unusually vulnerable to bad actors with ill intent. He leaves, unlike his predecessors who embraced the muted responsibilities of being a ‘former,’ with a stated agenda to stay engaged in politics and policy. No departing president in the modern era has hinted at or planned on becoming a political actor immediately after leaving office.
In addition, Trump has significant business entanglements that involve foreign entities. Many of these current business relationships are in parts of the world that are vulnerable to intelligence services from other nation-states. And it is not clear that he understands the tradecraft to which he has been exposed, the reasons the knowledge he has acquired must be protected from disclosure, or the intentions and capabilities of adversaries and competitors who will use any means to advance their interests at the expense of ours.
She concluded, “I also have personal experience with the president: I briefed him many times, participated in scores of meetings with him as his principal deputy director for national intelligence. While I resigned my position in 2019, this is not a personal grievance. As an intelligence professional, I have gone out of my way not to judge his policy or personal actions publicly. This is an intelligence assessment born of my years of experience.”