President Trump takes control of Intelligence Community
The firing of Michael Atkinson, the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, is another step toward the gradual exposure of the Deep State. Atkinson had been nominated for the position by Trump in November 2017. In his letter to Congress the President explained that he had lost confidence in Atkinson. Progressives were up in arms.
Former CIA director John Brennan called President Trump's shakeup in the intelligence community a "virtual decapitation." Nancy Pelosi stated, “This latest act of reprisal against the Intelligence Community threatens to have a chilling effect against all willing to speak truth to power. The President must immediately cease his attacks on those who sacrifice to keep America safe." Adam Schiff tweeted, "Trump’s dead of night decision to fire ICIG Michael Atkinson is another blatant attempt to gut the independence of the Intelligence Community." Schiff tweeted this at 9:39 PM, so he could not have received it in the "dead of night." However, it sounds more sinister than late Friday evening. Senator Chuck Schumer said, “Michael Atkinson is a man of integrity who has served our nation for almost two decades. Being fired for having the courage to speak truth to power makes him a patriot.” And Sen. Mark Warner said, “In the midst of a national emergency, it is unconscionable that the president is once again attempting to undermine the integrity of the intelligence community by firing yet another intelligence official simply for doing his job.”
It is becoming increasingly obvious that the upper management of the intelligence agencies were working to defeat Trump from the beginning. When Chuck Schumer told Rachel Maddow, “Let me tell you: You take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you. For a practical, supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he’s being really dumb to do this,” the intelligence community had already taken him on.
Atkinson was described as "the intelligence community’s chief watchdog." But what exactly was he watching? He did notify Congress about a "whistleblower's" complaint concerning Trump's communications with the Ukraine’s president. This led to the President's impeachment. Was there anything else worth watching? How about the FISA applications the FBI obtained to spy on Trump campaign associate Carter Page? The Justice Department's inspector general found 17 significant errors and omissions, including multiple instances in which the FBI withheld exculpatory information from the court. The CIA had informed the FBI that Page was working with them and regularly reported on his contacts with the Russians. The application cast him as an agent of Russia.
The surveillance of Page prompted the President to charge that the FBI was spying on his campaign. However, the inspector general did not find any evidence that political motivations played a part in the decision to surveil Page. How deeply did he look? Comey, Brennan, Clapper, Strzok, and McCabe have all revealed hostility toward Donald Trump. U.S. Attorney John Durham is currently investigating whether Brennan took politicized actions to pressure the rest of the intelligence community to match his conclusions.
After a review of 29 FISA applications, from eight FBI field offices, the OIG informed the FBI and DOJ… that zero applications had FBI evidence to support the validity of the claims within the FISA warrants. 100% of FISA applications inspected were materially deficient. The New York Times attributed these deficiencies to "the F.B.I.’s systematic sloppiness." Problems with the FISA applications "could be even worse than the new audit indicates" if raw case files are investigated. The Times sees a silver lining in this cloud: "The finding of systemic incompetence is devastating for the F.B.I. But… the discovery is leavened by an unusual side benefit for the bureau: It undercuts the narrative... that the botching of applications… is evidence that the F.B.I. engaged in a politically biased conspiracy."
However, the "sloppiness" defense does not work. Jason Beale of the Federalist wrote: "There’s no statistical way every single oversight, clerical error, unchecked box, unread file, misplaced document, unread email, uncorroborated assumption, unverified assertion, omission of exculpatory evidence, and inclusion of false allegations can all fall against Page, and in favor of the FBI’s goal of providing probable cause to convince the court to believe he was an agent of a foreign power." This would be like flipping a coin and having it come up heads 17 times in a row. It is possible but highly unlikely.
John Dietrich is a freelance writer and the author of The Morgenthau Plan: Soviet Influence on American Postwar Policy (Algora Publishing). He has a Master of Arts Degree in International Relations from St. Mary’s University. He is retired from the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. He is featured on the BBC's program "Things We Forgot to Remember:" Morgenthau Plan and post-war Germany.