Tensions between the U.S. intelligence community and President Donald Trump reached new heights after it was reported that Trump ally and New York billionaire Stephen Feinberg would be leading a sweeping review of the nation's spy agencies.
Citing administration officials, the New York Times reported Wednesday that Feinberg, whose "only experience with national security matters is his [capital management] firm's stakes in a private security company and two gun makers," would be working for the White House while conducting a broad review of intelligence agencies. Feinberg is co-founder of Cerberus Capital Management.
"Bringing Mr. Feinberg into the administration to conduct the review is seen as a way of injecting a Trump loyalist into a world the White House views with suspicion," the Times observed, noting that Feinberg has close ties to Trump's controversial chief strategist Stephen Bannon as well as son-in-law Jared Kushner.
What's more, "top intelligence officials fear that Mr. Feinberg is being groomed for a high position in one of the intelligence agencies," posts which are normally reserved for career intelligence officials, the Times further noted.
Trump's growing public feud with the U.S. intelligence agencies peaked this week after leaks revealed that the White House had known about unsanctioned pre-inaugural communications between Gen. Michael Flynn and Russian officials, forcing the resignation of Flynn from his post as national security advisor.
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And while calls have grown for an independent investigation into potential collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump camp, the president has focused his wrath on the "low-life leakers," as he wrote on Twitter early Thursday, vowing: "They will be caught!"
As many have pointed out, Trump's opinion of such leaks has shifted dramatically since his days on the campaign trail when he declared, "I love WikiLeaks," after the outlet published emails hacked from the account of John Podesta, campaign manager for Trump's political rival Hillary Clinton.
"But this is Washington," the Times' Michael D. Shear observed in a separate story on Wednesday, "where leaks are common currency—and, depending what side you're on, either sinister or patriotic.
"Democrats these days see the proliferation of leaks about the Trump administration as the acts of public servants revealing the misdeeds of a presidency," Shear continued. "Republicans see them as the reckless actions of disgruntled bureaucrats eager to advance their own agendas and sabotage Mr. Trump. Either way, Mr. Trump's presidential flip-flop follows a landmark month for Washington leaks."