Trump transition team vice chairman and holder of future positions within the administration on a targeted basis, Newt Gingrich, is asked by John Dickerson to clarify the Trump position on Russia. He notes that while Vice President-elect Pence has stated that Mr. Trump is driving the bus, his tone towards Russia is much more moderate than that of his nominees for Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State. Dickerson asks, “If I’m an American citizen or a foreign country, how do I make sense of those two things?”
Gingrich reminds him that Trump has selected extremely knowledgeable people, citing both Mattis and Tillerson as examples. He says, “You know that when they have councils to talk about policy he’s going to have very sophisticated advice. [What] we also know is that he is his own person.” He says, “He’s an entrepreneur, he’s not a corporate CEO. He’s not a guy who says, ‘I want my staff to give me three options.’ What he wants is various people to give him thirty options and then he’s going to pick what he believes in.”
“And I suspect,” says Gingrich, “He fully expects Mattis and Tillerson to implement the Trump policy.” Dickerson pursues the thirty different things question, asking how foreign governments respond to that type of thing. Gingrich replies, “I think foreign capitals are going to be a lot like the American press corps, I mean, and like most citizens. We’re going to go through a period here of adjustment to the fact that we have the first truly entrepreneurial president we’ve seen in modern times.”
“I think you have to go back to Theodore Roosevelt,” Gingrich says, “to get the same level of daily energy and drive and confusion, and the confusion is caused because he’s not staffed, he has people near him who try to understand him.” He reminds Dickerson, “Donald J Trump got to be president his way and he’s going to be president his way. And the fact is the rest of the planet is going to have to, for better or worse, learn how to cope with a president who is very complicated.” He notes how that reality elevates Mattis and Tillerson as well as Nikki Haley at the UN in the importance of their positions.
Dickerson asks about two times that Mr. Trump referred to members of the intelligence community in a comparison to the Nazis, and a suggestion of a lack of trust in the relationship. Gingrich surprises Dickerson by saying, “I don’t think there should be a good relationship right now. I mean, I’ve spent a lot of my career, as you know, dealing with the intelligence community and I want to make two points. One, the very top people, who are political appointees, I think absolutely betrayed and undermined the intelligence community. I think they acted in ways that were totally inappropriate,” both in this context as well as in Benghazi. He encourages Dickerson to go back and review “how the CIA agreed to restate the facts in a way that was totally false. I mean, this is at the political appointee level, which has really been corrupted by the Obama administration.”
He notes there’s a second part that may be an indictment of the general decay of American education, asking, “How do you get a report that apparently John McCain passed in in December, that says that this one person, a real human being, was in Prague. And in all of that time, in ten months, eleven months, nobody in the intelligence community picked up the phone and said, ‘have you ever been to the Czech Republic?’ I mean, think about the level of incompetence.”
Dickerson asks how Trump will work with them. He says, “I hope what he does is say to the new Director of National Security, Dan Coats, ‘I expect you to thoroughly overhaul the entire community.'” He then has some recommendations for Trump remaining focused that build on the methods of Ronald Reagan.
Gingrich just explained why there is such chaos in the intelligence community and nobody is willing to stand behind their assessments. There is rampant top-down corruption and the assessments are compromised. Just like with Benghazi, as he noted, Obama gave them an outcome and they filled in the gaps with secret, redacted fabrications.
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