Trump allegations plunge US intelligence agencies into crisis

US president-elect says leaking of allegations dossier resembles ‘Nazi Germany’

An escalating civil war between incoming president Donald Trump and the US intelligence community is presenting America's spies with their biggest crisis since the failures in the run-up to the Iraq war.

By blaming intelligence agencies for the possible leaking of a dossier detailing alleged efforts by the Kremlin to cultivate and compromise him and likening the situation to “Nazi Germany”, Mr Trump has declared war on officials who pride themselves for their non-partisan professionalism.

"This is the first time that I know of where a president has accused [intelligence agencies] of having a political position . . . and that really challenges this industry that works very hard to be non-partisan," said Cortney Weinbaum, a former intelligence officer now at the Rand Corporation.

“They are going to be put in a position very quickly, if they are not already, of ‘Do I have to defend everything I do? Should I just give you the ‘just the facts’ and then keep my mouth shut?’”



Mr Trump’s attack, via Twitter and then a press conference on Wednesday, was aimed primarily at the public release by BuzzFeed of a 35-page dossier that was assembled by a former British intelligence officer for a private investigation company.

The dossier carries unverified allegations that the Trump camp colluded with the Kremlin in a disinformation campaign against his rival, Hillary Clinton, and agreed to steer the election debate away from Russia's behaviour in Ukraine. The Trump campaign has denied the allegations and called the entire dossier false.

Mr Trump said if intelligence officials did divulge details of the allegations to the media it would be a “tremendous blot on their record”.

That attack took tensions between the president-elect and the intelligence community, which have been growing in recent months over allegations of Russian interference in last year's election, to new levels. It also risks exacerbating the divide within Mr Trump's Republican party over Russia and how to investigate the Kremlin's alleged involvement.

Senator John McCain, the former Republican presidential nominee who has called for a rigorous probe into Russia's role in the election, confirmed on Wednesday that he had received the dossier and passed it to James Comey, the FBI director, "late last year".

Mr McCain has already split from his party leaders by calling for a bipartisan select committee to investigate Russia's role in email hacking, echoing a demand from Chuck Schumer, the top Senate Democrat. Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate majority leader, has rebuffed calls for a select committee, saying existing committees were capable of reviewing the issues.


Analysts said the public fight between Mr Trump and the intelligence community carried risks.

Susan Hennessey, a former National Security Agency lawyer now at the Brookings Institution, said Mr Trump's response was "advancing a false and dangerous narrative that the US intelligence community leaked this information and did so out of revenge. Neither of which is true."

A tweet in which Mr Trump accused intelligence agencies of failing to stop the leak “reads as if Trump is trying to deflect focus from these devastating, though unverified allegations, by attempting additional smears vilifying intelligence professionals,” she said.

“For now, the actual story is that the intelligence community and law enforcement are taking these claims seriously enough to take them to the president,” Ms Hennessey said. “The fact that there is this kind of investigation into an incoming president is itself completely remarkable.” – (Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017)