Trump and Our Intelligence Services: Two Separate Realities

We have a president elect who has been able throughout the campaign to by and large getaway with creating a reality in a shape that was useful to him at the moment.  And now we have an intelligence community that doesn’t do that.  It creates a reality based on their best understanding of the facts at the moment.    And those two mind sets are now clashing right in front of us as we run up to the inauguration.

General Michael Hayden, former CIA Director, on Smerconish show January 7

Those two mind sets clashed yesterday, not with all sorts of fireworks but with a clear display of separate realities as to the main points of the report those intel chiefs delivered to Trump.   I made some predictions in a post yesterday as to what might transpire.  While I think I was in the ballpark, I missed the chance to hit a  home run, not foreseeing the big fat possibility that Trump would cherry pick a bit here and there from the report while misrepresenting its main substance.  In other words he would publicly interpret the report in a way that fit his separate reality.

The reality of the report was that Russian hacking is a big problem and that it interfered with our election in various ways with a few aims in mind, one of them to reduce the chances of Hillary Clinton winning.   That is an unwelcome reality for Trump because he will not accept any news that might de-legitimize his victory to any degree nor any information that detracts from his desire to develop a closer relationship with Russia.

I should have realized that Trump might just ignore, or misrepresent the findings of the report as he has done so many times in the past with information that doesn’t suit him.  In other words, work it into his separate reality.  I thought he would back off a bit as long as the report did not conclude that the Russians actions helped him win, as he knew it did not, because the intelligence chiefs don’t believe that’s their call.

But in simply discussing Russian efforts to make an impact it raises the possibility that some of those attempts did influence a number of voters who didn’t care for either candidate much, but felt the duty to vote anyway.   Though impossible to know how much of an impact, it seems unlikely to have had no impact at all, which is what Trump insists on claiming.  Even worse, he acts as if the report backs him up.

Here is the beginning of the official response of Trump to the findings of the intel services:   “While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines.”

That is a textbook case of disinformation as defined in Wikipedia:   “Disinformation is intentionally false or misleading information that is spread in a calculated way to deceive target audiences.”  For one, as Michael Hayden pointed out, the initial part focusses on a cyber problem we have with several nations, which is true, but it wasn’t the focus of the report.   The problem with Russia was the focus of the report and that is obscured here.

After beginning with that misleading statement, the Trump team jumps to “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election”……as if that has anything to do with the initial comments on the general cyber problem or that the intel report concluded that.   Neither is true.   The intel report concluded nothing as to the impact.  Instead it leaves it to us to form our own opinion from their information.

The “no impact” comment is just made up, a fact hidden by connecting the words to the statement about no tampering with the voting machines, which is actually in the report.

Perhaps this break down is tedious to you, but the Trump team is so good at spreading disinformation that a light needs to be continually cast on instances of them doing just that.   Especially on a topic as important as our relationship to Putin’s Russia.

Over these next two or three weeks this war between separate  realities could heat up, as there are several Republican senators who I believe will resist Trump’s continuous attempts to trivialize Russian actions of interference in our political process.

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Donald Trump, the Phony Fan of Our Intelligence Agencies

The Donald Show continues to keep us guessing, which is the biggest reason the show remains hot.  Unpredictable is interesting, maybe scary or sickening at times, but interesting.  Today’s guessing game centers around a meeting Trump will have  with top intelligence officials to discuss Russian hacking during the election.

The case has been floated in the news often in recent weeks, raising questions as to both the intentions and success of Russia’s actions in interfering with the election.   Trump has not welcomed either angle, especially the part that raises doubts about the legitimacy of his win and, as usual, when he feels diminished in any way, he comes out swinging, or throwing.

He has disparaged those intelligence agencies in tweets and other statements, even going to the extent of citing Julian Assange for support, though he denied that yesterday as I will get to later.  When battling, Trump will grab anything to throw at you (and often later deny that’s what he did or meant).

Despite several previous statements to the contrary Trumped tweeted yesterday he “is a big fan of intelligence”.   The intelligence community doesn’t believe that, as James Clapper, Director of Intelligence made clear at an open hearing in the Senate yesterday.   He said that while skepticism of intelligence results is warranted, “I think there’s a difference between skepticism and disparagement.”  And there was no question who he thought was disparaging them, the same guy they are meeting with in Trump Tower today.

This intelligence team is not likely to pull any punches, especially since they are all about to leave office, so the media buzz revolves around how contentious the meeting might become:   Will Donald Trump deny their findings or accept them?

I think he will likely accept them for the most part and even praise those agencies in the process because to dismiss those findings, once seeing secret information, would be to put him at odds with Republicans he needs help from.

First of all the meeting won’t be all that contentious because Trump has a history of vile attacks at a distance in public, while congenial with the same people in private.  At meeting’s end Trump will announce he has been convinced that Russia did try to interfere with the election, but did not succeed in tipping it (since Clapper has already stated the intelligence agencies have made no conclusion on that, so there is no knowing, just lots of opinions).   Trump will then make a show of the respect he has long held for the intelligence agencies and what a serious matter the hacking is, and might even talk tough, but he won’t do much about it right now

He has boxed himself in here.  The Russian hacking evidence interferes with his apparent desire to be more cozy with Russia by riling up the likes of Republican senators McCain and Graham, the latter having talked about Obama’s response as “throwing pebbles” while Graham wants to throw “rocks” at the Russians.  Those senators likely will push for a stronger reaction, something Trump will have to deal with later.

Right now his biggest consideration is getting  Rex Tillerson, the Exon Mobil chief, confirmed for Secretary of State.  Both a pro and con with Tillerson is that he has worked out various energy deals with Putin over the years, so he knows him well, but maybe too well, too close, too friendly to many who think of Putin as a thug and a virtual dictator.

It would only take a few Republican senators to stop Tillerson’s nomination, so I predict we will see less of the tweeting teen-ager on the attack, and more the conciliator for a few days at least.

By the way, what gives me some confidence in my predictions is this tweet from Trump yesterday, in which he clearly has begun to reverse his story about the dubious intelligence services.  Of course he never thought that way.  It was the dishonest media that made it seem so.

“The dishonest media likes saying that I am in Agreement with Julian Assange – wrong. I simply state what he states, it is for the people…. to make up their own minds as to the truth. The media lies to make it look like I am against “Intelligence” when in fact I am a big fan!”

Thank you for clarifying that misunderstanding Mr. Trump.  Now excuse me as I need to refrain from upchucking all over my computer.