A recent report from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General reads like a Charles Dickens novel in that it helps us see the ghosts of Trump’s past, present and future, each bringing bad news.
A recent one helps us see Trump’s ghosts past, present and future, each bringing bad news.
An April 26 report concluding that former President Donald Trump’s DHS watered down and delayed a 2020 intelligence report that spoke of Russia’s plans to help Trump’s re-election with propaganda casting doubts on the health of the candidate Joe Biden is more than just official confirmation of what has already been alleged by a whistleblower. Its added value is that it provides a window into what the intelligence community was like under Trump, what it might have been like had he been re-elected, and how it would likely function in the event of a future Trump regime. .
Prompted in part by the claims of this high-level whistleblower, the OIG investigated whether Acting Secretary Chad Wolf and his leadership team properly handled the drafting, approval, and dissemination of a report revealing that the Russian government had a propaganda strategy to denigrate the health of candidate Biden. The report found that their handling of the intelligence and analysis report was anything but appropriate by intelligence community standards.
“We found that DHS did not adequately follow its internal processes and comply with applicable policy standards and requirements when editing and disseminating an I&A [information and analysis] intelligence product regarding Russian interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.”
The OIG has identified three important issues. First, he cited DHS for changing the scope of its intelligence reporting for reasons that “appear to be based in part on political considerations.” Second, the OIG concluded that Wolf “has participated in the review process on multiple occasions despite having no formal role in reviewing the product.” Third, he determined that “delays and deviations put I&A at risk of creating a perception of politicization.”
Essentially, some top DHS brass treated intelligence that Russia was going to back Trump’s re-election as toxic by using its social media propaganda machine to denigrate Biden’s sanity. According to the OIG’s findings, career intelligence analysts were told that the Russian aid disclosures should be “held back” because, as the OIG whistleblower put it, Wolf said that it “gave a bad image of the president”. Notes from a DHS official indicate that Wolf said in a meeting that the report “will harm POTUS – kill him according to his authorities.”
Suddenly, the OIG found, the report on Russia’s intentions was turned into a draft containing dubious claims that it was Trump’s campaign that was being targeted, specifically that Iran and China were trying to support Biden by questioning Trump’s health. The OIG found that this change “was misleading and inconsistent with intelligence information.”
The original report, first conceptualized in the spring of 2020, was not fully released until six months later, on October 15, 2020, 18 days before the election – not with a bang but with a groan. That’s because the report ultimately watered down the hard intelligence that Russia was helping Trump by targeting Biden, inserting the notion – not fully verified – that Iran and China might be helping Biden by targeting Trump.
The OIG report confirmed what we already knew: Trump disdained and mistrusted the intelligence community, even when it meant siding with our adversaries, and he appointed a series of “acting” officials not skilled but loyal so they can protect his interests but avoid scrutiny. that comes with the Senate confirmation process. As acting secretary at DHS for more than a year, Chad Wolf was the poster child of an irresponsible lackey. This is how the OIG report gives us a glimpse into the ghost of the Trump administration’s past. But it offers a picture of what a Trump gift might have looked like if he had won the election, and predicted what a future Trump administration would look like – particularly as it relates to Russia, the US intelligence community and the battle for Ukraine.
The report confirms what we already knew: Trump disdained and mistrusted the intelligence community, even when it meant siding with our adversaries.
Under President Biden, we have seen the opposite of intelligence suppression. In fact, there has been unprecedented public disclosure of intelligence as a strategy against Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putin, and in favor of a democratic Ukraine. Biden’s reliance on US intelligence has given Ukraine and the world a better understanding of the peril posed by Putin. And, in the interest of freedom and democracy, Biden promised even more U.S. intelligence sharing with Ukraine in the future.
The OIG report invites us to imagine what a current Trump administration might do to defend – or not defend – Ukraine against Russia. Despite Russia’s alleged war crimes in Ukraine, Trump continues to brag about his enduring connection to Putin. If he were still president, would we see the kind of skillful and strategic intelligence gathering and disclosures that Biden executes to support Ukraine? It’s unlikely. Could we instead see Trump sharing intelligence about Ukraine’s plans and vulnerabilities with Putin? We cannot rule out this possibility. He has already leaked highly classified intelligence to the Russians at the expense of an ally.
In the OIG report, we also see the ghost of a future Trump, that is, a second term of even more sinister sycophants willing to pervert the intelligence process for political gain. The OIG report contains a seemingly straightforward recommendation: “Improve the process for reviewing and disseminating election-related intelligence products.” The report says the Biden administration agrees with this recommendation and has 30 days to implement it.
Would a new Trump administration honor such intelligence process improvements? Would they have even read the findings of the OIG? More than likely, we would face an even greater contrast between the Biden and Trump approaches to intelligence. A contrast reminiscent of yet another Dickens novel, “A Tale of Two Cities”. Because for our intelligence community, depending on who runs the Oval Office, it can be “the best of times” or “the worst of times.” It can be “the season of Light” or “the season of Darkness”.