The inauguration is little more than two weeks away, but Donald Trump risks a rift with the same community on which he will rely for assessments of the greatest threats facing the nation.
Last night, the president-elect suggested that the U.S. intelligence community is working to manufacture evidence that the Russian government intentionally interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
The "Intelligence" briefing on so-called "Russian hacking" was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 4, 2017
Trump has claimed that he knows more about Russian interference than he lets on, and has sought to cast doubt that Russia is responsible. He does, in fact, seem to forget how he stood onstage during a news conference in Florida back in July and invited Russia to meddle by finding and releasing the private emails of Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent:
Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing... They probably have them. I’d like to have them released.
He also undermined the intelligence community in a recent statement to reporters outside his Palm Beach, Fla., club, Mar-a-Lago:
I just want them to be sure because it’s a pretty serious charge. If you look at the weapons of mass destruction, that was a disaster, and they were wrong. So I want them to be sure. I think it’s unfair if they don’t know … I know a lot about hacking. And hacking is a very hard thing to prove. So it could be somebody else. And I also know things that other people don’t know, and so they cannot be sure of the situation.
Trump, who has said that the "age of computer" has complicated our lives, has recommended writing messages out and having them delivered by courier instead because "no computer is safe."
As January 20 approaches, one wonders how long the president-elect can continue to openly antagonize intelligence agencies and erode public trust without the intelligence community "getting back" at him, as New York Senator Chuck Schumer pointed out. “He’s being really dumb to do this…you take on the intelligence community and they have six ways from Sunday of getting back at you," he said.