A spokesman for President-elect Donald Trump rejected media reports that said the incoming administration is working on a plan that would restructure and pare back the nation’s top spy agency, calling them “100 percent false” Thursday.
“Please note the following: These reports are false,” incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters on a daily transition conference call, referring to an article first published Wednesday night by the Wall Street Journal.
Spicer seemed to acknowledge that discussions were taking place, saying, “All transition activities are for information-gathering purposes, and all discussions are tentative.”
But, he added, “there is no truth to this idea of restructuring the intelligence community infrastructure. It is 100 percent false.”
The controversy comes as Trump has criticized U.S. intelligence agencies on social media in recent days, questioning their conclusion that Russia was responsible for hacked emails of Democratic groups and campaign officials.
Trump has been weighing an overhaul, but not elimination, of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) for weeks, a matter that has factored into the delay in nominating someone to serve in that position, according to members of his inner circle.
Trump’s top advisers on intelligence matters are deeply skeptical of the value of the DNI position, an office that was created to spearhead post-Sept. 11 reforms of the intelligence community but has become the center of its own swelling bureaucracy.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a senior member of Trump’s transition team, has voiced doubt about the value of the DNI role.
Trump has also been sharply critical of the CIA, particularly its conclusion that Russia waged a cyber campaign to help him defeat Hillary Clinton. But his pick to lead the CIA, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), has not indicated in recent conversations with current and former agency employees that he is planning a major shake-up, former U.S. intelligence officials said.
Trump is slated to meet with U.S. spymasters this week when Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., CIA Director John Brennan and FBI Director James B. Comey brief him in New York on the intelligence surrounding Russia’s suspected involvement in the election hacks.
Retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, whom Trump previously named as his national security adviser, will probably be present, adding to the tension — he was fired by Clapper as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Later Thursday, Spicer continued to spar with The Wall Street Journal, the news outlet that first reported the incoming administration's deliberations over restructuring the intelligence agencies.
After a spokeswoman said the Journal stands by its story, Spicer took to Twitter, writing: "So does that mean we have to wait 8 years for a correction?"