White House taps bil­lion­aire to head in­tel­li­gence re­view

Cape Breton Post - - WORLD -

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said Thurs­day his ad­min­is­tra­tion has asked a New York­based pri­vate eq­uity ex­ec­u­tive to lead a re­view of the U.S. in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity as he moves to crack down on “il­le­gal leaks’’ of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion.

Trump told re­porters that Stephen Fein­berg, co-founder of Cer­berus Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, “is a very tal­ented man, very suc­cess­ful man’’ who has of­fered his ser­vices.

Trump added, “I think that we are gonna be able to straighten it out very eas­ily on its own.’’

Fein­berg has been asked to make rec­om­men­da­tions on im­prove­ments to ef­fi­ciency and co-or­di­na­tion be­tween the var­i­ous in­tel­li­gence agen­cies, a se­nior White House of­fi­cial said ear­lier Thurs­day. Fein­berg’s po­si­tion is not of­fi­cial un­til he com­pletes an ethics re­view, the of­fi­cial said.

The news emerged as Trump seeks to re­place na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Michael Flynn, who re­signed at Trump’s re­quest this week.

Fein­berg was among the eco­nomic ad­vis­ers for Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. Cer­berus Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, a firm with $30 bil­lion in in­vest­ments, is deeply rooted in the Repub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment. Former Vice-Pres­i­dent Dan Quayle is the firm’s head of global in­vest­ment, and former Trea­sury Sec­re­tary John W. Snow, who served un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, is the firm’s chair­man.

Democrats were less en­thu­si­as­tic than Trump about the choice of Fein­berg.

“While we must al­ways be open to im­prov­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion and co-or­di­na­tion among in­tel­li­gence agen­cies, taken in con­cert with the large num­ber of trou­bling state­ments Pres­i­dent Trump has made den­i­grat­ing our na­tion’s in­tel­li­gence pro­fes­sion­als, I am ex­tremely con­cerned that this ap­point­ment sig­nals a de­sire by the ad­min­is­tra­tion to marginal­ize the role of the DNI or even take un­prece­dented steps to politi­cize in­tel­li­gence oper­a­tions,’’ Warner said. The DNI is the di­rec­tor of na­tional in­tel­li­gence.

Many in­tel­li­gence pro­fes­sion­als are view­ing this as an­other slight by the Trump White House, ac­cord­ing to a former se­nior U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer who spoke only on con­di­tion of anonymity out of con­cern for putting former col­leagues at risk. They al­ready are wor­ried about politi­ciza­tion of the in­tel­li­gence prod­uct and fear this could be a way to hin­der their abil­ity to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion that might con­tra­dict the White House’s po­lit­i­cal views, the of­fi­cial said.

Mike Hay­den, former di­rec­tor of both the CIA and the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency, said the White House can re­view in­ef­fi­cien­cies within the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity but should not at­tempt to ex­ert con­trol over the agen­cies’ find­ings.

Hay­den said in an in­ter­view that the pro­posed re­view of the 17 in­tel­li­gence agen­cies could be an un­set­tling de­vel­op­ment for former Sen. Dan Coats, Trump’s nom­i­nee for di­rec­tor of in­tel­li­gence who is yet to be con­firmed by Congress.

Some cur­rent and former ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials have raised con­cern over the ex­tent to which Trump has em­pow­ered mem­bers of his in­ner cir­cle on mat­ters that are typ­i­cally left to the in­tel­li­gence agen­cies.

The newly es­tab­lished Strate­gic Ini­tia­tives Group, headed by White House strate­gist Steve Ban­non, in­cludes a unit charged with coun­tert­er­ror­ism in­tel­li­gence, cur­rent and former se­nior of­fi­cials say. The unit is headed by White House aide and former na­tional se­cu­rity an­a­lyst Se­bas­tian Gorka, who doesn’t have ap­pro­pri­ate clear­ance, they said — some­thing the of­fi­cials ex­pressed con­cern about given the sen­si­tive man­date of the unit.

AP PHOTO

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks dur­ing a news con­fer­ence, Thurs­day, Feb. 16, 2017, in the East Room of the White House in Washington.

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