A slate of former intelligence chiefs penned an op-ed in The Washington Post on Friday panning President TrumpDonald TrumpOhio Republican who voted to impeach Trump says he won't seek reelection Youngkin breaks with Trump on whether Democrats will cheat in the Virginia governor's race Trump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race MORE for removing several officials from his administration, saying the development is being overshadowed by the coronavirus outbreak.
The piece, written by nine top former intelligence officials, sought to underscore the threat the removals pose to institutions that are designed to protect the country from foreign and domestic attacks, warning that the country is being put at risk as it dedicates its efforts to battle COVID-19.
“[A]s we collectively fight this deadly disease, the intelligence institutions that help protect us all from current and future threats are also under attack from an insidious enemy: domestic politics. We cannot let the covid-19 pandemic be a cover for the deeply destructive path being pursued by the Trump administration,” the former officials wrote.
“Even amid public health concerns, we cannot be distracted from how deeply destructive these removals are to our nation’s safety.”
Among the more prominent authors are former Directors of National Intelligence Joseph MaguireJoseph MaguireJudge dismisses Nunes's defamation suit against Washington Post Retired Navy admiral behind bin Laden raid says he voted for Biden Congressional Democrats request FBI briefing on foreign election interference efforts MORE, who left his post last month, John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanStill in the game: Will Durham's report throw a slow curveball at key political players? UFOs are an intriguing science problem; Congress must act accordingly How transparency on UFOs can unite a deeply divided nation MORE and James ClapperJames Robert ClapperAfghanistan disaster puts intelligence under scrutiny Domestic security is in disarray: We need a manager, now more than ever Will Biden provide strategic clarity or further ambiguity on Taiwan? MORE as well as former CIA Director Michael Hayden.
Several of the authors had public or reportedly private clashes with Trump, largely over his governing style and foreign policies.
The former officials criticized the firing of Russell Travers, a longtime intelligence professional who was dismissed from his position as acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) on Wednesday night. The authors praised Travers as “the epitome of what we strive for in national security.”
The authors warned that the departed officials will be replaced by those “who will undoubtedly know less and who will be more beholden to the intelligence community’s politicized leadership,” a move they said could undermine the nonpartisan advice the president is supposed to receive from the intelligence community.
“These unceremonious removals send a damaging message across the intelligence community. Every current officer sees that speaking truth to power in this administration is an immediate career-killer. Every young recruit will conclude that joining the intelligence community is little different from signing up for any other politicized element of the federal bureaucracy,” they wrote.
The authors called on Congress to beef up its oversight of the White House to protect the intelligence community from “destructive” removals.
“[T]he gutting of the intelligence community’s experienced professionals is not reform. It is politicization, pure and simple. It is destructive of our nation’s ideals, and it puts us all at risk,” they wrote. “Congress must reinvigorate the strictest of oversight to preserve what is left of the country’s prized, apolitical intelligence community.”