Like ripples expanding across a lake, the disorder within the Trump White House now looks ready to spread outward, and the first victim may be the nation’s intelligence and security apparatus. The New York Times revealed Thursday that President Trump is in talks with private equity billionaire Stephen A. Feinberg to lead a “broad review” of the Intelligence Community from within the White House.
The move, if confirmed, dramatically undercuts some of Trump’s own appointees, like former Congressman Mike Pompeo, who has only just taken the reins of the Central Intelligence Agency and former Indiana senator Dan Coats, who is awaiting confirmation as Director of National Intelligence.
Pompeo is currently working to get a grip on the huge responsibilities of his office and Coats will arguably have an even bigger task once he is confirmed, wrangling the various agencies, including the CIA, that make up the Intelligence Community.
Making a successful transition into their roles as key members of the administration’s national security team will be extraordinarily difficult, if not outright impossible if it is widely expected that the president is planning some sort of shake-up of the team’s whole structure.
It will also make life more complicated for agency leaders who are already in place, like National Security Agency Director and US Navy Admiral Mike Rogers and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey.
Just yesterday, Trump suggested that their agencies might be responsible for details about his administration that appeared in stories in The Times and The Washington Post.
Trump has repeatedly lashed out at the country’s intelligence services, both before and after taking office. He has gone as far as accusing them of conspiring against him and orchestrating leaks in order to damage him and his aides and advisors, including former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was forced out this week over revelations that he had illicit contact with Russian officials prior to Trump’s inauguration.
Feinberg has no experience in the intelligence world, meaning that his primary qualification for the job appears to be his success in becoming extremely wealthy, and his presumed loyalty to the president.
According to The Times, there is further speculation that Feinberg is also being considered for a permanent position at the helm of one of the intelligence agencies, which has also alarmed intelligence officials because such jobs typically go to people with at least some national security experience.