During a press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Trump boasted about the “incredible intelligence relationship” between the U.S. and the U.K. As David Ignatius reports, that was an example of how the president views Britain as the club that he resents, but desperately wants to join.
Trump’s relationship with British intelligence got off to a bad start in March 2017 when both he and Sean Spicer, who was then serving as White House press secretary, jumped on accusations from Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano that GCHQ—the British equivalent of the NSA—helped the Obama administration spy on the Trump campaign. Two years later, the president still hasn’t put that one to rest.
As you can see, the accusations this time came from Larry Johnson, the former CIA analyst who spent years peddling a conspiracy theory about a tape on which Michelle Obama talked about “whitey.” That is the kind of source this president relies on when it comes to “intelligence.”
More recently, as the president was preparing to leave for his trip to England, he talked about giving Attorney General Barr the authority to declassify intelligence related to the Trump-Russia investigation.
What I’ve done is declassified everything. [Barr] can look. I hope he looks at the UK and I hope he looks at Australia and I hope he looks at Ukraine. I hope he looks at everything, because there was a hoax that was perpetrated on our country. It’s the greatest hoax…probably in the history of our country and somebody has to get to the bottom of it.
Here’s the truth: according to the Guardian, GCHQ was one of the first foreign intelligence services to warn the CIA about suspicious interactions between people connected to Trump and known or suspected Russian agents.
It is understood that GCHQ was at no point carrying out a targeted operation against Trump or his team or proactively seeking information. The alleged conversations were picked up by chance as part of routine surveillance of Russian intelligence assets. Over several months, different agencies targeting the same people began to see a pattern of connections that were flagged to intelligence officials in the US.
With that in mind, this kind of thing should come as no surprise.
Former British officials believe that MI6 has begun to worry about sharing its most sensitive secrets with the United States, for fear that they may be disclosed by the Trump White House for political reasons, or through simple carelessness. This British concern about the U.S. ability to keep secrets predates Trump, but it has increased.
“You never know what Trump will say or do or tell in a rage, and that’s something to worry about,” says a former British official. “The U.S. has become a less reliable ally.”
What British intelligence knows about the connections between Trump and Russia are only part of the problem. As Trump demonstrated very early on in his presidency when he blurted out classified information from the Israelis during a meeting with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador, he can’t be trusted to keep his mouth shut with much of anything.
Despite the president’s boasting about a great intelligence relationship between this country and Britain, it is obvious that all of our allies have good reason to be suspicious of Trump as a result of both his malfeasance and ignorance. In other words, this president is viewed as a security threat.