President Trump continues to reject the judgments of U.S. spy agencies on major foreign policy fronts, creating a dynamic in which intelligence analysts frequently see troubling gaps between the president’s public statements and the facts laid out for him in daily briefings on world events, current and former U.S. officials said.
The pattern has become a source of mounting concern to senior U.S. intelligence officials who had hoped that Trump would become less hostile to their work as he settled into office and more receptive to the information that spy agencies spend billions of dollars and sometimes put lives at risk gathering.
Instead, presidential distrust that once seemed confined mainly to the intelligence community’s assessments about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election has spread across a range of global issues. Among them are North Korea’s willingness to abandon its nuclear weapons program, Iran’s nuclear and regional ambitions, the existence and implications of global climate change and the role of the Saudi crown prince in the murder of a dissident journalist.
“There is extraordinary frustration,” a U.S. intelligence official said. The CIA and other agencies continue to devote enormous “time, energy and resources” to ensuring that accurate intelligence is delivered to Trump, the official said, but his seeming imperviousness to such material often renders “all of that a waste.”
Who needs intelligence when you’ve got your gut?
* Paul Kiel and Jesse Eisinger report on the way budget cuts have eviscerated the IRS:
The result is a bureaucracy on life support and tens of billions in lost government revenue. ProPublica estimates a toll of at least $18 billion every year, but the true cost could easily run tens of billions of dollars higher.
The cuts are depleting the staff members who help ensure that taxpayers pay what they owe. As of last year, the IRS had 9,510 auditors. That’s down a third from 2010. The last time the IRS had fewer than 10,000 revenue agents was 1953, when the economy was a seventh of its current size. And the IRS is still shrinking. Almost a third of its remaining employees will be eligible to retire in the next year, and with morale plummeting, many of them will.
The IRS conducted 675,000 fewer audits in 2017 than it did in 2010, a drop in the audit rate of 42 percent. But even those stark numbers don’t tell the whole story, say current and former IRS employees: Auditors are stretched thin, and they’re often forced to limit their investigations and move on to the next audit as quickly as they can.
Make no mistake: This is exactly what Republicans were intending to happen when they began their war on the IRS years ago.
* Mike DeBonis reports that after their argument in the Oval Office, Nancy Pelosi said of President Trump, "It's like a manhood thing for him. As if manhood could ever be associated with him. This wall thing."
* Shane Goldmacher reports that potential Democratic presidential candidates are trying to figure out whether it would be better to get the benefit of super PAC money or stay "pure" and try to make it up with small donations.
* Dahlia Lithwick argues that Trump has no idea what “collusion” is.
* And Rosalind Helderman reports that George Papadopoulos is trying to make himself into a reality TV star.