There is little question that Trump’s presidency has crippled the critical relationship
between U.S. intelligence agencies and the congressional committees that oversee them.
The arrangement hinges on both sides’ operating in good faith and above politics.
In April, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee published the findings of its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The report implicitly rejected the consensus among U.S. intelligence agencies that Moscow’s efforts were designed to boost Trump.
Democrats on the panel panned the report’s conclusions
and accused their GOP colleagues of abetting Trump’s effort to discredit investigators, including special counsel Robert Mueller.
The distrust and partisan acrimony will be hard to repair.
The question is what to do now.
The first thing, says Hayden, is to avoid self-inflicted wounds.
Institutions that are designed to guard the public interest against the passing wiles of politicians
“very often are tempted to break their own norms in pushing back against the norm-busting President,” says Hayden.
That “is a really serious problem,” he argues, because it further erodes public faith in government.
Clapper prescribes more candor.
After 9/11 and in the years before Trump’s election, the intelligence community was “not being sufficiently transparent and open,” he says.
“So, lesson learned. Early communication and more transparency.”
America’s institutions have been tested before, and each time they have proved resilient.
Despite the fears cataloged in their books,
both Clapper and Hayden expect the pillars of U.S. democracy to survive the attacks by the President.
One way or another, they will outlast Trump.