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Former CIA director James Woolsey quits Trump transition team

The former CIA director and senior adviser to President-elect Donald Trump announced that he is no longer advising Trump on Jan. 5. (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

Former CIA director R. James Woolsey Jr., a veteran of four presidential administrations and one of the nation’s leading intelligence experts, resigned Thursday from President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team because of growing tensions over Trump’s vision for intelligence agencies.

Woolsey’s resignation as a Trump senior adviser comes amid frustrations over the incoming administration’s national security plans and Trump’s public comments undermining the intelligence community.

“Effective immediately, Ambassador Woolsey is no longer a Senior Advisor to President-Elect Trump or the Transition. He wishes the President-Elect and his Administration great success in their time in office,” Jonathan Franks, a spokesman for Woolsey, said in a statement.

Woolsey suggested in a pair of cable television interviews Thursday evening that he was only an informal adviser to Trump, with duties that included speaking to the journalists about Trump and his national security policies.

Woolsey said on CNN that he did not want to “fly under false colors” any longer. “I’ve been an adviser and felt that I was making a contribution….. But I’m not really functioning as an adviser anymore. When I’m on the [television] screen, everybody announces that I’m a former CIA director and that I’m a Trump adviser and I’m really not anymore.”

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People close to Woolsey said that he had been excluded in recent weeks from discussions on intelligence matters with Trump and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the incoming White House national security adviser. They said that Woolsey had grown increasingly uncomfortable lending his name and credibility to the transition team without being consulted. Woolsey was taken aback by this week’s reports that Trump is considering revamping the country’s intelligence framework, said these people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly.

“Jim is very uncomfortable being considered an adviser in an area where one might consider him an expert when he is not involved in the discussions,” one person close to Woolsey said. “To be called ‘senior adviser’ and your opinion is not sought is something he cannot handle.”

Trump transition officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Woolsey’s resignation.

Woolsey has been a key player in the national security firmament since the late 1970s, when he served as undersecretary of the Navy in the Jimmy Carter administration. He has held other roles under former presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, culminating with the post as director of the CIA between 1993 and 1995.

The person close to Woolsey described him as having chafed at Trump’s loose style on Twitter. They described Woolsey as a “very principled” diplomat who takes care to communicate the right message with just the right words. “This is a guy [for whom] commas, periods, etcetera, all have special meaning,” this person said.

Woolsey joined the Trump campaign last September, issuing a statement commending Trump’s plans to grow and modernize the military.

“Mr. Trump understands the magnitude of the threats we face,” he said in the statement.

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