Why Is Donald Trump Disparaging the U.S. Intelligence Community?   

Last week I watched with dismay the discussion on the Charlie Rose Show about the ongoing fight between President-elect Donald Trump and the U.S. intelligence community. Rose and his guests (David Ignatius of the Washington Post, Michael Shear of the New York Times and Jeffrey Goldberg, the Editor of The Atlantic Magazine) kept trying to identify substantive (and erroneous) reasons for Trump’s denigration of the intelligence community and his apparent admiration of Russia and Vladimir Putin.

The real reason for Trump’s disparagement, in my judgment, however, is his fundamental character flaw that has been identified by Michael J. Morell, the acting director and deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2010 to 2013. In his January 6 New York Times article, Morell, wrote that Trump’s disparagement was damaging the intelligence community and would continue to do so. But it opened with this statement, “When I wrote in August 2016 . . . that Donald J. Trump’s character traits posed a national security threat, I didn’t imagine that the first manifestation of that dynamic could play out” with the CIA.[1]

Morell’s August 2016 article directly made the character flaw point.[2] He said, “the character traits [Mr. Trump] has exhibited during the primary season suggest he would be a poor, even dangerous, commander in chief.” Morell added, “These traits include his obvious need for self-aggrandizement, his overreaction to perceived slights, his tendency to make decisions based on intuition, his refusal to change his views based on new information, his routine carelessness with the facts, his unwillingness to listen to others and his lack of respect for the rule of law.”

These character flaws, according to Morell’s earlier article, were obviously seen by Mr. Putin who was “a career intelligence officer, trained to identify vulnerabilities in an individual and to exploit them. That is exactly what he did early in the primaries. Mr. Putin played upon Mr. Trump’s vulnerabilities by complimenting him. He responded just as Mr. Putin had calculated.”


[1] Morell, Trump’s Dangerous Anti-C.I.A. Crusade, N.Y. Times (Jan. 6, 2017).

[2] Morell, I Ran the C.I.A. Now I’m Endorsing Hillary Clinton, N.Y. Times (Aug. 5, 2016).

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As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

3 thoughts on “Why Is Donald Trump Disparaging the U.S. Intelligence Community?   ”

  1. Other Observers Identify Trump’s Character Flaw

    Two Washington Post columnists– Eugene Robinson and Richard Cohen–
    have echoed Michael Morell’s assessment of Donald Trump.

    According to Robinson, Trump “is enveloped by a shell of self-regard that at first seems armor-like but turns out to be delicate and brittle.” He lashes out at almost everyone who says anything negative about him while showing “nothing but high regard for anyone who says anything nice about him.”

    Robinson concludes, “I don’t believe Trump’s tweets are part of some sophisticated strategy to draw attention from other events and topics. . . . When someone criticizes him publicly in a way that threatens his stature, he seems compelled to hit back. He can’t seem to ignore any slight.” Such a reaction, says Robinson, is “a sign of weakness, not strength — as Putin and other world leaders surely have figured out.”

    Cohen opined that “Trump is a one-man basket of deplorables. He is a braggart and a liar. He is a bully and a demagogue. He is an ignoramus and a deadbeat, a chiseler and either a sincere racist or an insincere one, and his love for himself is matched only by my loathing of him.”

    Robinson, What Trump is saying in his tweets: I’m weak, Wash. Post (Jan. 9, 2017) https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/what-trump-is-really-saying-in-his-tweets-im-weak/2017/01/09/ef2c61b2-d6ac-11e6-9a36-1d296534b31e_story.html?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-d%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.96e4d857d2d8

    Cohen, How to remove Trump from office, Wash. Post (Jan. 9, 2017), https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/how-to-remove-trump-from-office/2017/01/09/e119cc36-d698-11e6-9a36-1d296534b31e_story.html?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-b%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.f5045f758382

  2. Another Columnist Nails Trump’s Character

    Roger Cohen of the New York Times, prompted by Donald Trump’s reaction to Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globes Awards, calls him a “petulant egomaniac.”

    According to Cohen, Trump is “a study in neediness. Adulation is what he craves; admonishment he cannot abide. Trafficking in untruths and conspiracies, he calls the press that he secretly venerates dishonest for pointing this out. That’s called transference. Soon he will have at his disposal far more potent weapons than Twitter to assuage his irascibility and channel his cruelty. It is doubtful that he will resist them over time. There is rational cause for serious alarm. If the world was anchored by America, it is about to be unmoored.”

    Cohen also quotes Garrison Keillor’s account of Trump as a “thin-skinned showman of conspicuous ‘cruelty and ignorance.’”

    Cohen, Streep vs. Trump for America, N.Y. Times (Jan. 10, 2017), http://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/10/opinion/streep-vs-trump-for-america.html?ref=opinion

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