During a press briefing at the White House yesterday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked if he could still confirm that “nobody on the Trump campaign, not even Gen. Flynn, had any contact with the Russians before the election.” His answer was, well, irrational: “I don’t have any — there’s nothing that would conclude me — that anything different has changed with respect to that time period.”
But according to a report by Michael Schmidt, Mark Mazzetti, and Matt Apuzzo for the New York Times, “several Trump associates had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.”
For months, U.S. investigators have been collecting potential evidence of collusion between the Russians and members of Trump’s team, and the recent leaks from within the intelligence community show that there were sustained contacts, adding duel to that possibility.
On Friday, Vox published and interview with Glenn Carle, a 23-year veteran of the CIA and a former deputy officer on the National Intelligence Council.
Vox’s reporter Sean Illing asked Carle if the U.S. has truly entered uncharted territory, and if he believes Trump’s ties to Russia have compromised our national security.
“The narrow answer is yes, but it’s much more than that,” Carle said. “The real issue is what I’ve been saying in public for many months: We are facing the gravest threat to our institutions and our government since 1861, since the country broke in half. This is a graver crisis than Watergate, which was about corruption, not the usurpation of our laws and our checks and balances.”
He added: “We’re dealing with a man in Trump who doesn’t accept a fact-based reality, who only acts for his own self-aggrandizement, and who views any action that does not serve him as a threat that must be destroyed. And, on top of that, his team appears to have been colluding with Russian intelligence services.
This is a massive crisis for our norms and our Constitution, and we have to say so.”
When Sean Illing brought up the Republican talking point that we should be more concerned about the leaks than the actual revelations, Carle replied:
“Again, that’s totally outrageous. To say that the leaks are the real issue is like saying the guy who reported that he saw someone set fire to a building had dirty shoes. It’s an egregious misdirection of attention.”
Sean Illing: “Do you think people in the intelligence community trust Donald Trump? Should they trust him?”
“No, of course not, Carle said. “We all should know this man very well at this point: If something seems to create an issue for him, he will denounce, denigrate, and attempt to destroy the person or the entity responsible for creating it. That’s it. The law doesn’t count for Donald Trump. Social convention doesn’t count for Donald Trump. Institutional practices don’t count for Donald Trump. Only Donald Trump counts for Donald Trump. Nothing else matters.
So no, we should not — and cannot — trust this man.
Regarding a recent report that the CIA and the NSA are withholding information from the Oval Office out of fear that the Russians might have ears inside the White House Situation Room, Carle has this to say:
” I don’t know for a fact that this is true, but I absolutely buy this as a possibility. I have publicly talked about the crisis that this circumstance poses to the national security establishment. What do you do if you think the officer in charge of you is the one who’s betraying the oath and the obligations to protect the Constitution and the country?
If you resign, then someone else will take your place. If you report the information, it will be tabled or used against you rather than acted upon. If you go in-house, you risk having the information passed up the chain of command. So if I were put in this dilemma, I would do what I thought was necessary to protect the nation’s secrets.”
“So what’s left to do if you’re someone on the inside who understands the stakes and can see what is happening?
“The only thing you can do is what is now happening: an aroused populace can protect democracy. You fight darkness by casting light upon it. So one should not characterize leaks, as the cowardly and self-interested Republicans have, as the issue. Leaks are the only option that one has in this existential crisis to protect the Constitution.
You can read the entire interview here.