President Donald Trump has created a secretive intelligence panel that includes top Republican donors and “has access to some of America’s most closely held secrets and a line to the Oval Office,” according to a report from ABC News.
According to ABC News, the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board (PIAB) is now being staffed by a mix of national security experts and Republican donors who have little background in intelligence.
Former PIAB chairman and ex-Republican senator Chuck Hagel tells ABC News that he is concerned about the president loading up the board with top donors, although he says that past administrations have followed similar practices.
“From that standpoint it does bother me,” said Hagel, who presided over former President Barack Obama’s PIAB from 2009 through 2013. “But it’s been done for many years, I mean both administrations. No one is really very pure in that.”
One such board member is Dallas businessman Ray Washburne, who served as vice chairman of the Trump Victory Committee and who admits he does not have a background in national security. Washburne did say, however, that his work in the private sector made him qualified to access America’s top intelligence secrets.
“I was in a [secure facility] every day reading intelligence briefings on countries and leaders and businesspeople throughout the world, because we do business in every far, dark corner of the world,” he told ABC.