ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: The only cabinet level Trump appointees confirmed by the U.S. Senate so far are Defense Secretary James Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, both former Marine Corps generals. Also on the job is Trump national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who did not require confirmation. But many vacancies in the administration’s national security team remain.
Joining me now from Washington to discuss it is “Politico” correspondent Michael Crowley.
Michael, so President Trump visited the CIA today and he was very complimentary. But as we know through most of the transition, he’s basically derided the agency.
So, how does that relationship moved forward and what should be looking for — looking at as it moves forward?
MICHAEL CROWLEY, POLITICO: Well, I think as Trump himself said at the CIA today, he’s going to have his own director. His nominee is Mike Pompeo, who’s a Republican congressman. Now, Democrats are putting up a little more of a fight that had been expected a couple of days ago. It’s not guaranteed that Pompeo is going to go through.
But I think the Trump team’s view is that the heads of the intelligence community at the top levels were Obama appointees and at the CIA, you have John Brennan, who has already resigned, and also, likewise, the Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper has also resigned. And I think there was, you know, not a good relationship between Trump and either of those men. So, he’s going to have Pompeo coming in at the CIA, and probably former Republican Senator Dan Coats coming as Director of National Intelligence.
And I think the hope on his team is that that will be a fresh start. You won’t have, you know, kind of mistrust — you know, a poisoned well that you might have with those guys who are on their way out.
But the last thing I’ll say about that is I don’t think that solves the problem. I mean, among the rank and file, I think there’s a lot of confusion, distrust and even anger at the way Trump has talked about the intelligence community the last several weeks. So, just changing the leadership isn’t going to solve the problem. And I don’t know how he fixes it. It’s really going to depend on I think whether he takes their advice, seems to take them seriously, listens to them, and whether his new senior leadership can kind of repair the relationship moving downward.
ALISON STEWART: So far, what has Mr. Trump signaled as his national security priorities?
MICHAEL CROWLEY: Well, I think that he has made clear that possibly, his top priority — I mean, he — you know, make America great again, of course. And as he said in his inaugural speech, “America first”. So, he is saying that he wants to reorient our foreign policy in a way that — you know, the way I hear it — spends less money and blood and treasure overseas defending allies, building out the militaries of our allies so they can protect themselves. It’s a little bit more of you’re on your own attitude toward our global alliances, including the NATO alliance, for instance. That has left our allies very unsettled.
I think when you kind of get in to policy issues, really, fighting ISIS and Islamic radicalism are at the top of his list. He seems to think that there’s almost nothing that’s worth using our military in diplomacy for beyond crushing ISIS and crushing it’s, you know, kind of similar organizations like al Qaeda. But he has not really spelled out in policy terms how that would work, what he would do that’s so different from the Obama administration.
Last thing very quickly, of course, he’s made clear that he wants to have a new relationship with Russia, which is going to be a very tricky and controversial thing to do, given the cloud, frankly, over his inauguration related to reports that Russia interfered in the U.S. election to Trump’s benefit.
ALISON STEWART: Michael Crowley from “POLITICO” — thanks so much.
MICHAEL CROWLEY: Thanks for having me.