Today the Wall Street Journal ran a major story titled, Donald Trump Plans Revamp of Top U.S. Spy Agency. The lede:
President-elect Donald Trump, a harsh critic of U.S. intelligence agencies, is working with top advisers on a plan that would restructure and pare back the nation’s top spy agency, people familiar with the planning said.
The move is prompted by his belief that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has become bloated and politicized, these people said.
The planning comes as Mr. Trump has leveled a series of social-media attacks in recent months and the past few days against U.S. intelligence agencies, dismissing and mocking their assessment that Russia stole emails from Democratic groups and individuals and then provided them to WikiLeaks for publication in an effort to help Mr. Trump win the White House.
One of the people familiar with Mr. Trump’s planning said advisers also are working on a plan to restructure the Central Intelligence Agency, cutting back on staffing at its Virginia headquarters and pushing more people out into field posts around the world. The CIA declined to comment.
Gen. Flynn and Mr. Pompeo share Mr. Trump’s view that the intelligence community’s position—that Russia tried to help his campaign—is an attempt to undermine his victory or say he didn’t win, the official close to the transition said.
Gen. Flynn will lead the White House’s National Security Council, giving him broad influence in military and intelligence decisions throughout the government. He is also a believer in rotating senior intelligence agencies into the field and reducing headquarters staff.
Current and former intelligence and law enforcement officials have reacted with a mix of bafflement and outrage to Mr. Trump’s continuing series of jabs at U.S. spies.
“They are furious about it,” said one former senior intelligence official, adding that a retinue of senior officials who thought they would be staying on in a Hillary Clinton administration now are re-evaluating their plans following Mr. Trump’s election.
Now it seems like the veracity of the story is in question:
Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday that reports President-elect Donald Trump is working on plans to restructure the intelligence community are “100 percent false.”
“These reports are false,” Spicer told reporters on a conference call Thursday morning. “All transition activities are for information-gathering purposes and all discussions are tentative.”
The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday evening that Trump and his transition team were working on a plan to restructure the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA because Trump believes they are biased against him.
Spicer told reporters that Trump’s “top priority” would be ensuring the security and safety of the United States.
“He’s committed to finding the best and most effective ways to do it,” Spicer said. “But I want to reiterate, there is no truth to this idea of restructuring the intelligence community infrastructure. It is 100 percent false.”
Why the idea of a reorganization of the intelligence community created such a firestorm is beyond me. If you google the terms and set your search parameters for 1/1/2009 through 11/8/2016 you find hundreds of thousands of articles on why reorganization is necessary and on reorganizations the various intelligence agencies have carried out. It almost seems that anytime there is a hint that Trump might actually take the job of president seriously, it sets off a wave of pearl-clutching.
The proof of the pudding, they say, is in the eating but rotating headquarters staff to the field and convincing Hillary lovers to retire all sound like laudable goals to me. And everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I don’t see how anyone can attribute the CIA directors’s public statement that the intention of the Russian hacking campaign was to elect Trump, without a whit of supporting evidence that doesn’t start with “I believe,” was anything other than a baldfaced attempt to render Trump’s election illegitimate.
My suspicion is that the story is mostly true. That Flynn and Pompeo might very well be looking at a major restructuring but that the project hasn’t received any kind of “official” imprimatur thereby making Spicer’s statement true. What are the odds Trump would not have tweeted this if he had directed it? Zero, right? Or it could have been a trial balloon to gauge response. Or Spicer could be lying. Or he might just not know. Any or all of these are possible as this is a day ending in “y.”