Donald Trump shares many traits with the former president, not least a dislike of the CIAby Rupert Stone / December 21, 2016 / Leave a comment
Donald Trump appears to have modelled himself on an unlikely hero, the former Republican president Richard Nixon. Nixon, in his 1968 bid for the White House, appealed to the fears of a “silent majority” of Americans perturbed by crime and riots across the country. And Trump, with his pledge to “make America safe again,” has deliberately evoked Nixon’s “law and order” rhetoric, vowing to beef up the military, support the police, and crack down on terrorism and public disorder.
But the parallels with Nixon go deeper. Trump, like his predecessor, appears to dislike and distrust the US intelligence community. The CIA recently concluded that Russia had interfered in the election, helping Trump to win by hacking Hillary Clinton’s emails and then feeding them to Wikileaks. This prompted a fierce statement from Trump’s team attacking the CIA’s credibility: “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” Trump also said he didn’t bother reading his daily intelligence briefings, as they were repetitive.
It is highly unusual for a President-Elect to castigate America’s spies in this manner. Indeed, we really need to go back to the Nixon era to find anything remotely similar. Nixon was convinced the CIA had contributed to his defeat in the 1960 election, by funneling information to his opponent John F Kennedy. He saw the CIA as “Ivy League liberals” pushing a leftish political agenda and, when he assumed the presidency in 1969, sought to exclude them from the policy-making process.
Like Trump, Nixon probably rarely read the president’s Daily Brief and distrusted the CIA’s reporting, convinced it had underestimated Soviet military capabilities, for instance. He believed the agency was too big, and wanted to cut it down. Nixon even suggested in an interview that the CIA had conspired to remove him from office: “It was no secret that I was dissatisfied with the CIA, with its reports and particularly with their appraisals of Soviet strength and our other problems around the world.”
Tensions between Trump and the CIA have been growing for months. In April, agency director John Brennan hit back at Trump’s support for “enhanced interrogation,” saying he would not obey orders to use waterboarding. Brennan repeated his opposition to waterboarding in a recent BBC interview,…