How the U.S. Intelligence Community Is Intervening in the 2020 Election

Brennan & Haspel
Former CIA director John Brennan and current CIA director Gina Haspel at the funeral of President George H. W. Bush, Washington DC, December 5, 2018. (Credit: CNN)

President Trump’s ongoing purge of the intelligence community, along with Bernie Sanders’ surge in the Democratic presidential race, has triggered an unprecedented intervention of U.S. intelligence agencies in the U.S. presidential election on factually dubious grounds.

Former CIA director John Brennan sees a “full-blown national security crisis” in President Trump’s latest moves against the intelligence community. Brennan charges, “Trump is abetting a Russian covert operation to keep him in office for Moscow’s interests, not America’s.” But congressional representatives, both Democratic and Republican, who heard a briefing by the intelligence community about the 2020 election earlier this month say the case for Russian interference is “overstated.”

On February 21, it was leaked to the Washington Post that “U.S. officials,” meaning members of the intelligence community, had confidentially briefed Sanders about alleged Russian efforts to help his 2020 presidential campaign.

Special prosecutor Robert Mueller documented how the Russians intervened on Trump’s behalf in 2016, while finding no evidence of criminal conspiracy. Mueller did not investigate the Russians’ efforts on behalf of Sanders, but the Computational Propaganda Research Project at Oxford University did. In a study of social media generated by the Russia-based Internet Research Agency (IRA), the Oxford analysts found that the IRA initially generated propaganda designed to boost all rivals to Hillary Clinton in 2015. As Trump advanced, they focused almost entirely on motivating Trump supporters and demobilizing black voters. In short, the Russians helped Trump hundreds of thousand times more than they boosted Sanders.

The leak to the Post, on the eve of the Nevada caucuses, gave the opposite impression: that help for Trump and Sanders was somehow comparable. The insinuation could only have been politically motivated.

What’s driving the U.S. intelligence community intervention in presidential politics is not just fear of Trump, but fear of losing control of the presidency. From 1947 to 2017, the CIA and other secret agencies sometimes clashed with presidents, especially Presidents Kennedy, Nixon and Carter. But since the end of the Cold War, under Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama, the secret agencies had no such problem.

Under Trump, the intelligence community has seen a vast loss of influence. Trump is contemptuous of the CIA’s daily briefing. As demonstrated by his pressure campaign on Ukraine, his foreign policies are mostly transactional. Trump is not guided by the policy process or even any consistent doctrine, other than advancing his political and business interests. He’s not someone who is interested in doing business with the intelligence community.

The intelligence community fears the rise of Sanders for a different reason. The socialist senator rejects the national security ideology that guided the intelligence community in the Cold War and the war on terror. Sanders’ position is increasingly attractive, especially to young voters, and thus increasingly threatening to the former spy chiefs who yearn for a return to the pre-Trump status quo. A Sanders presidency, like a second term for Trump, would thwart that dream. Sanders is not interested in national security business as usual either.

In the face of Trump’s lawless behavior, and Sanders’ rise, the intelligence community is inserting itself into presidential politics in a way unseen since former CIA director George H.W. Bush occupied the Oval Office. Key to this intervention is the intelligence community’s self-image as a disinterested party in the 2020 election.

Former House Intelligence Committee chair Jane Harman says Trump’s ongoing purge of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence is a threat to those who “speak truth to power.” As the pseudonymous former CIA officer “Alex Finley” tweeted Monday, the “‘Deep state’ is actually the group that wants to defend rule of law (and thus gets in the way of those screaming ‘DEEP STATE’ and corrupting for their own gain).”

Self-image, however, is not the same as reality. When it comes to Trump’s corruption, Brennan and Co. have ample evidence to support their case. But the CIA is simply not credible as a “defender of the rule of law.” The Reagan-Bush Iran-contra conspiracy, the Bush-Cheney torture regime, and the Bush-Obama mass surveillance program demonstrate that the law is a malleable thing for intelligence community leaders. A more realistic take on the 2020 election is that the U.S. intelligence community is not a conspiracy but a self-interested political faction that is seeking to defend its power and policy preferences. The national security faction is not large electorally. It benefits from the official secrecy around its activities. It is assisted by generally sympathetic coverage from major news organizations.

The problem for Brennan and Co. is that “national security” has lost its power to mobilize public opinion. On both the right and the left, the pronouncements of the intelligence community no longer command popular assent.

Trump’s acquittal by the Senate in his impeachment trial was one sign. The national security arguments driving the House-passed articles of impeachment were the weakest link in a case that persuaded only one Republican senator to vote for Trump’s removal. Sanders’ success is another sign.

In the era of endless war, Democratic voters have become skeptical of national security claims—from Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction, to the notion that torture “works,” to “progress” in Afghanistan, to the supreme importance of Ukraine—because they have so often turned out to be more self-serving than true.

The prospect of a Trump gaining control of the U.S. intelligence community is scary. So is the intervention of the U.S. intelligence community in presidential politics.


One Reply to “How the U.S. Intelligence Community Is Intervening in the 2020 Election”

  1. The only way I see Trump gaining control of the US Intelligence Agency happening is if the U.S. Intelligence Community allows it to happen.

    JFK’s dead proves that if CIA chooses any president can be temporary.

    If Trump does it will be because other billionaires want it that way. Including Bloomberg. This game really stinks and the fix is already in.

    See what Bloomberg has done in Texas and California.

    The Deep State is that group of the super wealthy elitists who council CIA’s top officials and recommend what they want to see happen. They make their plans with CIA an other top Intelligence Agencies and as in the past demand DOJ bow to their will.

    This group needs channels, conduits to direct their influence, money to the correct functionaries.

    I don’t know shat else to call the mechanism the super rich have in place. A mechanism of channels and conduits where by money is channeled to the right palms to buy influence.

    The billionaires constantly in touch with their lobby seem to always manage to sway crucial votes in congress and manage to lobby DOJ top get what they want.

    Billionaires would not have the political power they have if it were not for the overwhelming influence of their money, their only real power. They have a matrix of conduits and connections and those members of the defense industry are conduits also. Follow the money!

    The country is in big trouble and D.C. needs a wake up call, a call that it will not get from billionaires who buy elections.

    The grass roots in this country needs to take control of their government and Bernie may be the best chance to see that happen any time soon.

    The DNC as it stands now is no more than a group of lackeys playing to the tune billionaires are playing and the DNC response to Bloomberg proves it.

    I might actually all this quite appalling but at this point I’m so calloused to the abuse they melt out and so cynical I feel I’m watching an emanate train wreck and I can’t stop watching.

    Sanders voters in this country are making a statement, a value statement and the DNC is ignoring them to it’s detriment.

    I’ll give some tips heere about how to receive some sage word from a man who seems to be wise far beyond his years.

    Beau at The Fifth Column News do a google search for these it will take you a little over half an hour. Most of his videos run less than 7 minutes.

    Feb 4 2020 runs 6:2i min.

    “Let’s Talk About The parties Switching the party of Trump”

    Feb 15 runs 4:11 min

    “Lets talk about dancing left and dancing right”

    Feb 20 runs 10:44

    “Lets talk about misunderstanding Bernie’s supporters”

    Beau makes a great effort explaining how both parties of American politics have slide consistently to the RIGHT and where that drift has taken America.

    I believe what he describes reveals the manipulation of the political discourse in
    America. Brings to mind the Overton Window which the range of policies politically acceptable at any one time to the mainstream population at a given time.

    It has been pretty obvious neither Hillary or Trump has fit that bill. Both political parties seem oblivious to the will of the masses and use massive amounts of money to build artificial candidates by manipulating issues candidate choose to run on.

    Seems pretty clear to me that the mainstream of America wants something new and different.

    Look at the money Sanders raises from the grass roots and while you are viewing Beau’s youtub videos look at the views he is getting and the time it’s taking him to get them. This guy is becoming a folk hero before his viewers eyes.

    Do us both a favor Jeff take 31 minutes give or take a couple and hear him out. He started as a journalist and found a much better way to reach his audience.

    A lot can be learned by a guy who ran afoul of our crooked dogdamned system.

    This is a guy who took the air time to be the ears for a deft person who feared Mr. Rogers was forgetting to feed his fish, and the eyes of a blind person who wanted to raise a garden.

    He offended the federal government by being a hero. More proof America eats the best of it’s young. And this time it seems to have backfired.

    And it all started with just a thought.

    Thanks Jeff.

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