Deputy Director of National Intelligence Sue Gordon: Forced resignation is “significant loss for our Intelligence Community (Shutterstock)
Trying to take political control of US intelligence agencies, Donald Trump forces out another top official.
Sue Gordon, the Deputy Director of National Intelligence, was told on Thursday to submit her resignation after Trump — breaking regulations — blocked her from becoming the Acting Director.
Under the protocols of the Office of National Intelligence, Gordon should have succeeded Dan Coats, who said two weeks ago that he was stepping down. His position had been weakened by Trump’s objections to intelligence assessments on North Korea, Russia, and Iran which contradicted the President’s claims.
As soon as Coats issued his announcement, White House officials let the media know that Trump would not allow Gordon, with more than 30 years in US intelligence, to take charge. He reportedly believes she is close to former CIA Director John Brennan, whom Trump has accused of being part of a “deep state” attempt to remove him from office.
On Thursday, Coats interrupted a meeting that Gordon was leading on election security, and asked her to submit the letter of resignation, according to “sources familiar with the events”. After Gordon complied with a letter via Vice President Mike Pence, Trump tweeted, “Sue has announced she will be leaving on August 15”. On Friday, he named Adm. Joseph Maguire, the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, as the Acting Director of National Intelligence.
Turbulence Within Agencies
Trump initially tried to replace Coats with Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas, days after the legislator berated Special Counsel Robert Mueller and assailed the Trump-Russia report during Mueller’s testimony to the House Intellligence Committee.
Trump made no secret of his political motive, telling reporters, “As you’ve all learned, the intelligence agencies have run amok. They’ve run amok.”
But Ratcliffe’s nomination immediately ran into trouble over his lack of experience and claims that he exaggerated his record as a prosecutor. With some Republicans joining Democrats in opposition, his name was withdrawn.
Leading Republicans carefully convened their unease with Trump’s latest power play. “Sue Gordon’s retirement is a significant loss for our Intelligence Community,” said Richard Burr, the GOP chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Current and former intelligence officials also said they were unhappy with Gordon’s departure. However, the naming of Maguire, respected within the intelligence community, has tempered the possibility of resignations and public criticism and Trump.
An exodus of officials would have added to a growing challenge to Trump from departing officials. This week the Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, Kim Breier, quit over the implementation of Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy on immigration. Foreign Service Officer Chuck Park resigned, writing in The Washington Post that he could no longer be part of “The Complacent State”: ”
I worked to spread what (he) believed were American values: freedom, fairness and tolerance.
But more and more I found myself in a defensive stance, struggling to explain to foreign peoples the blatant contradictions at home.
Trump v. Intelligence
As President-elect, Trump compared US intelligence agencies to “Nazis”, blaming them for leaking memoranda about his connections with Russian officials.
After taking office, he continued to assail the agencies as part of the “deep state”, firing and forcing the departure of senior officials such as FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
Coats avoided the fallout over the Trump-Russia investigation. However, while he defended agencies over the conclusion of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, Trump said at a July 2018 summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin that he favored Putin’s denials over the assessment of his intelligence services.
Afterwards, when Coats sarcastically remarked about a Trump invitation to Putin to the White House — “That is going to be special” — aides tried to arrange the director’s dismissal. Coats defended intelligence agencies over the conclusion of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Trump responded at a July 2018 summit with choosing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denials over the assessment of the US intelligence community.
Afterwards, when Coats sarcastically remarked about a Trump invitation to Putin to the White House — “That is going to be special” — aides tried to arrange the director’s dismissal. He was shielded by Vice President Pence, but the White House watered down a secret report by Coats about interference in the 2018 midterm elections by Russia.
In January, after Coats presented the intelligence community’s assessment of global threats, Trump rebuked the officers as “passive and naive”.
Trump also bristled when Coats told legislators that North Korea would not give up its nuclear stockpile — a finding at odds with Trump’s embrace of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un — and that Iran did not have nuclear weapons capability. He snapped, “Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!”
Coats held firm in a speech to intelligence officials: “When we find that truth, [we must] speak the truth.”
Still, the White House watered down a secret report by Coats about interference in the 2018 midterm elections by Russia. And his presentation in late January of global threats drew Trump’s rebuke that intelligence staff were “passive and naive”.
Trump bristled when Coats told legislators that North Korea would not give up its nuclear stockpile — a finding at odds with Trump’s embrace of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un — and that Iran did not have nuclear weapons capability: “Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!”
Coats held firm in a speech to intelligence officials: “When we find that truth, [we must] speak the truth”; however, his days were numbered as White House aides spread the news of Trump’s dissatisfaction.