Donald Trump’s mendacity has two parts: first of all, there are the mind-numbing plethora of lies that he spreads from the White House under the headings of “fake news,” “witch hunt,” and “deep state.” Just as damaging is the second part of the campaign to spread disinformation, which is the war against the federal government’s intelligence chiefs and Inspectors General, who are responsible for truth-telling and accountability within governance. The intelligence community is responsible for “telling truth to power,” but Trump is pursuing an aggressive policy of “shooting the messenger” for those who dare to provide objective assessments.
Over the past several weeks, we have witnessed the removal of the following principal figures:
–Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph Maguire was replaced because he permitted a deputy to brief the congressional intelligence committees on the continued Russian campaign against our democratic process;
–The Inspector General (IG) of the DNI and the entire intelligence community, Michael Atkinson, was removed because he forwarded a whistleblower complaint from an analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency as the law required;
–The acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), Russ Travers, a long-time intelligence professional, was suddenly replaced without any explanation by a Trump loyalist;
–The IG for monitoring the stimulus funds, Glenn Fine, who was picked by a senior group of federal IGs, was similarly removed and replaced by another Trump loyalist;
–Rick Bright, the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency (BARDA), thus responsible for developing countermeasures to pandemics, was removed for failing to endorse an anti-malarial drug promoted by Donald Trump as a coronavirus remedy;
–The deputy IG at the Department of Health and Human Services, Christi Grimm, was replaced because she released an authoritative report that documented supply shortages and testing delays at U.S. hospitals.
–And, most recently, the IG of the Department of State was replaced because he committed the “crime” of opening an investigation of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo or using a political officer to carry out personal errands for the secretary and his wife.
Interestingly, Trump knew nothing about the report that identified critical shortages of supplies; the unavailability of test kits and protective gear; and the shortages of ventilators until he was asked by a reporter at a press conference on April 6. “What’s his name,” the president asked over and over. When Trump learned that the deputy IG had worked in the Obama administration, he referred to her report as politically biased. But Christi Grimm was a career civil servant who worked in the Office of the IG during the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. But that didn’t stop Trump from attacking Grimm and her “Fake Dossier!” on Twitter.
The purge of these experienced civil servants will not only do short-term damage to their important responsibilities on behalf of the American people, but it will do long-term damage to the essential activities of their department and agencies. The task of rehabilitating
the federal government will be enormous and enormously expensive.
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