President now gets along with U.S. intelligen­ce community

Trump praises ‘incredible’ officials

- David Jackson and Courtney Subramania­n

WASHINGTON – For one day at least, President Donald Trump is getting along great the U.S. intelligen­ce community – most of them anyway.

In announcing the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Trump praised the work of intelligen­ce officials, a marked departure from his repeated criticism of the intelligen­ce community over the Russia investigat­ion.

“We had some incredible intelligen­ce officials that did a great job,” Trump said during remarks Sunday at the White House.

Yet while proclaimin­g “it’s really a deserving name – intelligen­ce,” Trump also seemed to take a shot at certain unnamed leaders in what Washington refers to as the “intelligen­ce community.”

“I’ve dealt with some people that aren’t very intelligen­t having to do with intel,” Trump said.

Aaron David Miller, a former State Department official and a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for Internatio­nal Peace, said it’s “ironic that several of the things Trump has castigated likely helped secure this victory” – including CIA intelligen­ce, Kurdish cooperatio­n, and the U.S. counterter­rorism troop presence in Syria.

“It’s the very profession­al intelligen­ce community that he constantly derides that’s helped him claim credit for killing Baghdadi,” he said.

Trump has clashed repeatedly with intelligen­ce officials throughout his presidency, mostly over two high-profile investigat­ions. One is Russian interferen­ce in the 2016 election to benefit the Trump; the other is the ongoing impeachmen­t inquiry that centers on Trump’s own dealings with the president of Ukraine.

“When we use our intelligen­ce correctly, what we can do is incredible,” Trump told reporters Sunday. “When we waste our time with intelligen­ce that hurts our country, because we had poor leadership at the top, that’s not good.”

Since the election, Trump has periodical­ly questioned the intelligen­ce community’s assessment that Russia did indeed seek to influence 2016 in his favor by hacking prominent Democrats and pushing fakes news about candidate Hillary Clinton.

The president has accused Barack Obama-era intelligen­ce officials – such as former Director of National Intelligen­ce James Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan – of conspiring to pin the Russia plot on him.

In February of 2017, less than a month after his inaugurati­on, Trump tweeted that “the real scandal here is that classified informatio­n is illegally given out by ‘intelligen­ce’ like candy. Very un-American!”

In May of 2018, Trump claimed on Twitter that “Brennan started this entire debacle about President Trump.” Trump and aides have said they suspect Ukraine interfered in the election – one of the topics of the call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky that is central to the impeachmen­t drive.

House Democrats are investigat­ing whether Trump held up military aid to Ukraine until it agreed to investigat­e the 2016 election and U.S. Democratic opponent Joe Biden. The probe began after a whistleblo­wer’s complaint.

Throughout the process, Trump and his allies have accused the whistleblo­wer of having links to the intelligen­ce community. Democrats have accused Trump of seeking to “out” the whistleblo­wer for political reasons.

The announceme­nt of al-Baghdadi’s death came three weeks after Trump announced the withdrawal of American troops from northern Syria, a move that sparked bipartisan criticism that he had abandoned the Syrian Kurdish forces who fought alongside U.S. forces against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

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