But since getting elected, Trump has had a track record of questioning, worrying, and even directly upsetting, the thousands of men and women who collect and analyze the nation's top secrets. Here's a rundown:
Questioning their, well, intelligence
Intelligence officials had spent much of the presidential campaign investigating whether Russia was meddling in the election — whether they were behind repeated hacks and dumps of politically damaging emails from Hillary Clinton's and the Democrats' official campaign.
By the time the election had been decided, they went public with it. U.S. intelligence officials released an extraordinary declassified report in early January that declared Russia “carried out a comprehensive cyber campaign to sabotage the U.S. presidential election,” ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin and ultimately with the goal to help Trump win.
But Trump wasn't ready to say as much. For weeks, he had been casting doubt on the intelligence community's findings that Russia was behind the hacking.
He told the New York Times that all this Russia stuff amounts “to a political witch hunt.”
He even called into question the intelligence community that he was weeks away from leading.
After Trump got a highly classified briefing on Russian hacking, he issued a statement that essentially brushed off Russia's involvement:
“While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.”
Comparing them to Nazi Germany
A week before Trump's inauguration, BuzzFeed published a controversial and uncorroborated dossier alleging the Russians had some sort of blackmail over the president-to-be.
Trump, who had been briefed on the dossier's existence days earlier, was absolutely irate about the fact it became public. And he put the blame squarely on the intelligence community in a big way:
“I think it was disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake” to get out, Trump said at a news conference. “That’s something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do.”
Saying he's too smart for briefings
The Post's Miller and Jaffe report that Trump's National Security Council puts together multi-page briefings for Trump before he's about to meet with foreign leaders on what to say — and, presumably what not to say. But Trump “often ignores them,” they report.
Trump actually warned us that would happen. In a December interview with Chris Wallace of “Fox News Sunday,” Trump said he doesn't take the daily presidential intelligence briefings that presidents normally have because he doesn't need them.
“You know, I'm, like, a smart person. I don't have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years. Could be eight years — but eight years. I don't need that. But I do say, ‘If something should change, let us know.’ ”
Talking about crowd size in front of the CIA's sacred wall
On the first full day of his presidency, Trump appeared to extend an olive branch to the intelligence community by heading over to the CIA.
Trump stood before the most sacrosanct place in perhaps all of the U.S. intelligence agencies — 117 stars carved into white marble of the nameless employees who gave their lives for the CIA — and talked about his election victory and media coverage of his inauguration speech and yes, his inauguration crowd size.
Trump started out okay: “I just want to let you know I am so behind you and I know maybe sometimes you feel you haven't gotten the backing you wanted. And you're going to get so much backing. Maybe you're going to say: 'Please don't give us so much backing Mr. President.' And you're going to have it and I think everybody in this room knows that.”
But then he went on to say these things:
- “The military gave me great percentages. . . . Probably everybody in this room voted for me. . . . But I would guarantee a big portion. Because we're all on the same wave length, folks.”
- “The reason you're my first stop as you know is I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth. And they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community and I just want to let you know the reason you're the No. 1 stop is exactly the opposite.”
- “Did everybody like the speech?”
- “We had a massive field of people. You saw that. Packed. I get up this morning and I turn on one of the networks and they show an empty field. I said: Wait a minute. I made a speech. The field was — it looked like a million, a million and a half people.”
President Barack Obama's CIA director, John Brennan, said the speech was a “despicable display of self-aggrandizement in front of CIA’s Memorial Wall of Agency heroes.”
Sharing highly classified information with the Russians
The list of current and former intelligence officials who told Miller and Jaffe they can't believe Trump shared super-secret information with the Russians is long. Here are some of their more damning reactions, as compiled by The Fix's Aaron Blake:
- “Trump seems to be very reckless, and doesn’t grasp the gravity of the things he’s dealing with, especially when it comes to intelligence and national security.” — Former senior U.S. official close to current administration officials
- “Russia could identify our sources or techniques.” — Senior U.S. official
- “I don’t think that it would be that hard to figure this out.” — Former intelligence official who worked on Russia-related issues
- “He seems to get in the room or on the phone and just goes with it — and that has big downsides. Does he understand what’s classified and what’s not? That’s what worries me.” — Former U.S. official
This time, Trump's team appeared to realize the consequences of its actions. What Trump did so undermined the CIA's intelligence-gathering that White House officials immediately started phoning the heads of the CIA and the National Security Agency to do damage control, Miller and Jaffe report.
How those phone calls might help to alleviate the tensions Trump has created within the intelligence community since being elected is to be determined.