How do you brief a president who refuses to believe what you tell him?

Politico reports: Donald Trump’s insult-laced dismissal of reports that the CIA believes Russia hacked the 2016 election to help him is rattling a spy community already puzzled over how to gain the ear and trust of the incoming president.

Some fear that Trump’s highly public rebukes of the U.S. intelligence apparatus will undermine morale in the spy agencies, politicize their work, and damage their standing in a world filled with adversaries. After all, if the U.S. president doesn’t believe his own intelligence officials, why should anyone else?

“There is nothing more sacred to intelligence officers than their professionalism, honesty and non-partisanship. Trump’s charges strike at the core of their integrity,” said John Sipher, a former CIA officer with broad expertise on Russia.

Trump, a career businessman with no national security experience, has long taken positions that have alarmed intelligence officials, such as supporting torture and suggesting that it’s OK to kill the family members of terrorists.

His choice of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a man who promotes conspiracy theories on Twitter, as his national security adviser has unnerved observers. And his apparent reluctance to accept daily intelligence briefings since winning on Nov. 8 has fueled concerns that Trump will assume the presidency blind to the dangers facing the United States. [Continue reading…]

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