U.S. intelligence officials have withheld sensitive intelligence from President Donald Trump because they are concerned it could be leaked or compromised, according to current and former officials familiar with the matter.
The officials’ decision to keep information from Mr. Trump underscores the deep mistrust that has developed between the intelligence community and the president over his team’s contacts with the Russian government, as well as the enmity he has shown toward U.S. spy agencies. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump accused the agencies of leaking information to undermine him.
In some of these cases of withheld information, officials have decided not to show Mr. Trump the sources and methods that the intelligence agencies use to collect information, the current and former officials said. Those sources and methods could include, for instance, the means that an agency uses to spy on a foreign government.
A White House official said: “There is nothing that leads us to believe that this is an accurate account of what is actually happening.”
A spokesman for the Office of Director of National Intelligence said: “Any suggestion that the U.S. intelligence community is withholding information and not providing the best possible intelligence to the president and his national security team is not true.”
Intelligence officials have in the past not told a president or members of Congress about the ins and outs of how they ply their trade. At times, they have decided that secrecy is essential for protecting a source, and that all a president needs to know is what that source revealed and what the intelligence community thinks is important about it.
But in these previous cases in which information was withheld, the decision wasn’t motivated by a concern about a president’s trustworthiness or discretion, the current and former officials said.
It wasn’t clear Wednesday how many times officials have held back information from Mr. Trump.
The officials emphasized that they know of no instance in which crucial information about security threats or potential plotting has been omitted. Still, the misgivings that have emerged among intelligence officials point to the fissures spreading between the White House and the U.S. spy agencies.
“I’ve talked with people in the intelligence community that do have concerns about the White House, about the president, and I think those concerns take a number of forms,” Mr. Schiff said, without confirming any specific incidents. “What the intelligence community considers their most sacred obligation is to protect the very best intelligence and to protect the people that are producing it.”
“I’m sure there are people in the community who feel they don’t know where he’s coming from on Russia,” Mr. Schiff said.
Tensions between the spy agencies and Mr. Trump were pronounced even before he took office, after he publicly accused the Central Intelligence Agency and others of leaking information about alleged Russian hacking operations to undermine the legitimacy of his election win. In a meandering speech in front of a revered CIA memorial the day after his inauguration, Mr. Trump boasted about the size of his inaugural crowd and accused the media of inventing a conflict between him and the agencies.
In a news conference on Wednesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, Mr. Trump again lashed out at the media and intelligence officials, whom he accused of “criminal” leaks about Mr. Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador last December.
Mr. Trump didn’t explain Wednesday why he asked for Mr. Flynn’s resignation. Instead, he suggested the leaks and the media were to blame for his ouster.
“General Flynn is a wonderful man. I think he’s been treated very, very unfairly by the media,” Mr. Trump said. “And I think it’s really a sad thing that he was treated so badly.”
“I think in addition to that from intelligence, papers are being leaked, things are being leaked,” Mr. Trump said. “It’s criminal action. It’s a criminal act and it’s been going on for a long time before me but now it’s really going on.”
Reviving his line of criticism against intelligence officials during the transition, Mr. Trump said the “illegally leaked” information was from people with political motivations. “People are trying to cover up for a terrible loss that the Democrats had under Hillary Clinton,” Mr. Trump said.
A person close to Mr. Trump said he was reluctant to let go of Mr. Flynn because Mr. Flynn had vigorously supported him at a stage of his presidential campaign when few people did. Mr. Trump also felt Mr. Flynn did nothing wrong in his conversations with the U.S. ambassador to Russia and had good intentions.
“They both continue to support each other,” this person said.
For intelligence veterans, who had hoped that Mr. Trump’s feud with the agencies might have subsided, Wednesday’s comments renewed and deepened concerns.
“This is not about who won the election. This is about concerns about institutional integrity,” said Mark Lowenthal, a former senior intelligence official.
“It’s probably unprecedented to have this difficult a relationship between a president and the intelligence agencies,” Mr. Lowenthal said. “I can’t recall ever seeing this level of friction. And it’s just not good for the country.”
The president is a childish imbecile. That’s just a fact.
In the midst of all this, when his administration is coming apart at the seams, they’ve decided he needs a little outing. They’ve planned another one of his Nuremberg rallies this week-end to pick up his spirits and so he can delude himself that everyone loves him.
He’s a pathetic piece of work and everyone in Washington is scared to death he’s going to somehow kill us all. Well, not the congressional Republicans who are working as fast as they can to put whatever odious wet dream legislation they can get done in front of the fool’s nose before this whole thing implodes.
Meanwhile, the chaos continues.