Former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell thinks that intelligence agencies were too harsh to Trump during the campaign and presidential transition, according to an interview released Monday.
Morell, who left the CIA in 2013 after serving as its acting director twice, endorsed Hillary Clinton in an August 2016 New York Times op-ed.
Politico’s Susan Glasser asked Morell if getting involved was a mistake and the former CIA official said that it wasn’t, but that “there were downsides to it that I didn’t think about at the time.”
“I was concerned about what is the impact it would have on the agency, right? Very concerned about that, thought that through. But I don’t think I fully thought through the implications,” Morell said.
“So, let’s put ourselves here in Donald Trump’s shoes. So, what does he see? Right? He sees a former director of CIA and a former director of NSA, Mike Hayden, who I have the greatest respect for, criticizing him and his policies. Right? And he could rightfully have said, ‘Huh, what’s going on with these intelligence guys?’ Right?”
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“And then he sees a former acting director and deputy director of CIA criticizing him and endorsing his opponent,” Morell continued. “And then he gets his first intelligence briefing, after becoming the Republican nominee, and within 24 to 48 hours, there are leaks out of that that are critical of him and his then-national security advisor, Mike Flynn.”
Morell is referring to an NBC report that said Flynn was repeatedly interrupting briefers during the session.
“And so, this stuff starts to build, right? And he must have said to himself, ‘What is it with these intelligence guys? Are they political?’ The current director at the time, John Brennan, during the campaign occasionally would push back on things that Donald Trump had said,” Morell told Politico.
The former CIA acting director continued to reference leaked reports during the interview.
“Then he becomes president, and he’s supposed to be getting a daily brief from the moment he becomes the president-elect. Right? And he doesn’t. And within a few days, there’s leaks about how he’s not taking his briefing. So, he must have thought—right?—that, ‘Who are these guys? Are these guys out to get me? Is this a political organization? Can I think about them as a political organization when I become president?'”
He concluded: “So, I think there was a significant downside to those of us who became political in that moment. So, if I could have thought of that, would I have ended up in a different place? I don’t know. But it’s something I didn’t think about.”