The end result is that the amount of Russia-related intelligence that actually reaches the White House has thinned considerably. But the impetus behind those constraints is still murky. Is it simply because Haspel and the general counsel are strangling it, or perhaps the analysts themselves are either self-censoring or faltering due to low morale?
Another possibility, though it wasn’t mentioned in the Politico article, is that the Russia House analysts or even Haspel herself don’t trust Trump with the information. After all, Trump blabbing in May 2017 about highly classified intelligence to Russian officials in the Oval Office was the catalyst for the CIA’s extraction of one its highest-level sources inside the Kremlin.
The CIA’s Russia analysts are also laboring in an environment where everyone from Attorney General William Barr to Republican senators like Ron Johnson have been desperately searching for evidence to discredit the intelligence community’s findings about Russian interference in 2016 and the Mueller probe.
Trump has been suspicious of the intelligence community since before he even set foot in the Oval Office. Not only has Trump consistently railed against them, he has also ludicrously indicated that he trusts the word of Russian President Vladimir Putin over that of his own intelligence officials. Just last week, Trump lashed out at FBI Director Chris Wray for stating what is plainly obvious—that the Kremlin is trying to “sow divisiveness and discord” and “denigrate” former vice president Biden in order to sway the election.
But Trump’s pressure campaign against the intelligence community appears to have trickled down through the CIA. The head of the Russia House, an undercover agent, was reportedly axed earlier this year and around the same time another analyst inside the unit quit after Haspel accused him of lying about intelligence, an occurrence that happens regularly, according to Politico. “She calls analysts liars all the time,” one former CIA official told the outlet.
One former senior CIA official said Haspel’s changes to the reporting structure have “been framed by some as an effort to ‘protect the building’—well, her job is not to protect the building, it’s to protect the country.”
Sounds like protecting the country is really taking top priority at Trump’s CIA. Shocker.