Investigative reporter Paul Sperry has updated the report that sparked my Wednesday morning commentary about the intel community’s failure to release to Attorney General Bill Barr a treasure trove of material on the FBI’s “Trump/Russia” probe. According to his sources, one major holdup is the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, where “establishment” officials continue to drag their feet. This, they say, is where the bottleneck is.
Recall that under Obama, the DNI was none other than James Clapper, whom we all now know was bad news when it came to spying on Americans. Trump installed Dan Coats, who in true “insider” style pushed back against the President’s declassification order, refusing to cooperate with congressional investigators. Coats’ principal deputy was Sue Gordon; both of these officials turned in their resignations a month ago, and the ODNI is, for now, being led by former Navy Vice Adm. Joseph Maguire. Trump had nominated Texas Rep. John Ratcliffe --- who would have been great, despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that he wasn’t part of the intelligence community --- as Coats’ replacement, but Ratcliffe withdrew his nomination when it looked as though the confirmation fight would be tough and divisive.
RELATED READING: Dems still want impeachment; maybe it's CHRIS WRAY who needs to go
It’s a big job, as the ODNI has exploded in size since its creation in 2005 in response to 9/11. It’s supposed to coordinate the activities of all 17 intel agencies. According to some reports, Trump is looking to downsize it, which sounds to me like a superb idea.
Since the Senate has to confirm Trump’s nomination, he’ll wait to announce his new choice for the post until they re-convene on September 8. Sources tell Sperry that in the meantime, Trump is choosing from as many as eight possible candidates and is looking for someone who is not part of the “entrenched intelligence bureaucracy.” (Hallelujah.)
“A new director might help break the logjam in declassifying documents for Barr’s investigation,” said Christopher C. Hull, who is a national security consultant and former congressional aide. “It’s now toweringly obvious that some portion of U.S. intelligence worked to undermine Trump.” No kidding.
There are bound to be turf wars among the FBI, other intel agencies such as the CIA, and the ODIR, and it’s not known how strongly Chris Wray has stood up for declassification, or it he even has at all, as in public he’s been silent on the matter. Again, if he’s participating or even just complicit in the withholding of documents, he needs to go. Trump will have to sort that all out and make sure he has the right people in both positions. One would think he’s in the position to DEMAND the release of all the material sought by AG Barr. Now.
But according to Sperry, Barr hasn’t yet officially demanded the material. He’s been asking nicely, hoping for cooperation. But he's obviously getting the opposite of cooperation, so it’s time to force the issue. In keeping with that, be looking for Trump to carry out a broad shakeup of senior leadership in the intelligence community, which should have happened yesterday.