Democrats, journalists, and some in the intelligence community are expressing outrage over the replacement of Daniel Coats by John Ratcliffe (if Ratcliffe is confirmed). A headline in the Washington Post (paper edition) says the move is viewed as a “bid to silence [intelligence] agencies.”
It’s certainly true that intelligence gathering and analysis ought not be politicized — not by partisans of any stripe. Ratcliffe will have to satisfy Senators like Richard Burr, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, that he won’t indulge in this practice. (Nothing he can say or demonstrate will ever satisfy Democrats who, in any case, are fine with politicizing intelligence if it favors their interests).
But the Democratic/media/intelligence community drumbeat against Ratcliffe ignores this important reality: The nation is ill-served when the president doesn’t trust his top intelligence adviser.
Because President Trump trusts Ratcliffe, or at least doesn’t view him as an adversary or tool of his adversaries, there is a chance that Trump will take Ratcliffe’s intelligence briefings seriously. With Coats, there was no such chance.
As Eli Lake reports, Trump kept Coats “out of the loop.” Thus, Trump hasn’t been getting “the intelligence” the Washington Post thinks “he needs” from the current director.
If Ratcliffe tells Trump only what the president wants to hear, then Trump still might not get “the intelligence he needs,” and the fact that the director is back in the loop will be of no consequence. But I don’t assume that Ratcliffe will act in bad faith.
Trump’s track record shows that he’s amenable to hearing, and even following, advice that doesn’t comport with his instincts. Indeed, according to Lake, Coats got on Trump’s bad side after he advised the president to meet with James Comey before making a decision on whether to fire the FBI director. Trump followed this advice and met with the snake, to his extreme detriment,
On the policy side, Afghanistan is probably the best example of Trump being swayed by advice he disagreed with. From everything I can tell, Trump is a good listener, but only to people he trusts.
As for Ratcliffe “silencing” the intelligence community, it’s not going to happen. If Ratcliffe makes statements with which even a small portion of that community disagrees, you will read about it in the Washington Post.
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