Leaks: Pres­i­dent Trump taps New York bil­lion­aire to lead re­view of U.S. in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity.

San Francisco Chronicle - - PACIFIC SALES - By Vivian Salama and Deb Riech­mann Vivian Salama and Deb Riech­mann are Associated Press writ­ers.

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Trump said Thurs­day his ad­min­is­tra­tion has asked a New York-based 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 co­or­di­na­tion 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 co­or­di­na­tion 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.

Michael 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.

Brendan Smialowski / New York Times

Busi­ness­man Stephen Fein­berg (right) has close ties to Pres­i­dent Trump and Steve Ban­non.

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