Leon Panetta warns Trump ‘cannot protect the country’ if he keeps antagonizing intel community
Leon Panetta, the veteran White House insider, doesn’t understand why President Donald Trump continues to antagonize the U.S. intelligence community and key foreign allies.
The former defense secretary and CIA director appeared Monday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” where he dismissed Trump’s accusations about wiretapping as baseless and questioned the president’s rejection of intelligence findings on Russia.
“I think the one thing that he has done is he has appointed a pretty good national security team with Jim Mattis and (Mike) Pompeo at the CIA, and, you know, the new director of national intelligence is also very good,” Panetta said. “My understanding is that Director Pompeo is actually having access into the Oval Office to provide briefings to President Trump, and I’m hoping that they are beginning to repair that relationship because, in the end, a president’s first duty is protect the country, and very frankly, he cannot protect the country without getting good intelligence.”
Trump accused British intelligence of wiretapping his phone at the direction of former President Barack Obama, and Panetta said those evidence-free allegations threatened national security.
“Look, we are dealing with a world in which there are a lot of flash points and a lot of threats,” he said. “The only way we are going to deal with the threats that confront us around the world is through our alliances with our friends, whether it’s NATO, whether it’s Britain, whether it’s Australia, whether it’s other countries that are important to our ability to confront these national security issues. And the more the president angers our closest allies, the more he weakens our ability to deal with the threats that we are facing in the world. It’s that simple.”
Panetta, who famously brought discipline to Bill Clinton’s White House during his tenure as chief of staff, said Trump should reorganize his own administration to weed out staffers who serve no specific role.
“I don’t like people wandering around the White House who have no specific responsibilities,” Panetta said. “So they wind up going to meetings and they talk, but they really don’t have any responsibility. That was part of the problem I faced when I became chief of staff to Bill Clinton. I think he’s got -to focus on better organization within the White House so that it gives him the support he needs as president.”