Michael Morell, who served as the deputy head of the CIA in the Obama administration and was twice promoted to acting CIA director, believes the intelligence community was too harsh on President Donald Trump during the 2016 election.
What did Morell say?
In a recent interview with Politico Magazine, a reporter asked Morell whether his decision to endorse Hillary Clinton last year was a mistake. Morell said he doesn’t think he made a mistake but described the decision as very short-sighted.
"I was concerned about what is the impact it would have on the agency, right? Very concerned about that, thought that through,” Morrell said. "But I don’t think I fully thought through the implications."
What were the implications?
Morell said that when he made the decision to go political, he didn’t put himself in Trump’s shoes to think about how the then-future president might see the political decisions of the intelligence community.
"So, let’s put ourselves here in Donald Trump’s shoes. So, what does he see? Right? He sees a former director of CIA and a former director of NSA, Mike Hayden, who I have the greatest respect for, criticizing him and his policies. Right? And he could rightfully have said, 'Huh, what’s going on with these intelligence guys?' Right?” Morell explained, adding:
And then he sees a former acting director and deputy director of CIA criticizing him and endorsing his opponent. And then he gets his first intelligence briefing, after becoming the Republican nominee, and within 24 to 48 hours, there are leaks out of that that are critical of him and his then-national security advisor, Mike Flynn.
And so, this stuff starts to build, right? And he must have said to himself, “What is it with these intelligence guys? Are they political?”
Then he becomes president, and he’s supposed to be getting a daily brief from the moment he becomes the president-elect. Right? And he doesn’t. And within a few days, there’s leaks about how he’s not taking his briefing. So, he must have thought—right?—that, “Who are these guys? Are these guys out to get me? Is this a political organization? Can I think about them as a political organization when I become president?”
"So, I think there was a significant downside to those of us who became political in that moment,” Morell said.
Morell finished by saying he doesn’t know if he would have made a different decision had he thought through the implications of endorsing Clinton.
He also said he is very encouraged by the positive relationship between Trump and CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Though Morell said he doesn't know how intelligence briefings are going these days, he explained he is confident in Pompeo's CIA.