Trump wants another billionaire to join his gilded inner circle

Reuters reports: Stephen Feinberg, the chief executive of private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management [CBS.UL] who backed U.S. President Donald Trump’s election campaign, is being considered to lead a review of the vast U.S. intelligence operation and whether it can be restructured, current and former officials told Reuters.

While cautioning that the appointment was not final, the U.S. officials said Feinberg, if named to the role, would look for ways to streamline 17 separate agencies, a roughly $70 billion annual budget and tens of thousands of employees.

Trump’s advisers have expressed particular interest in reforming the role of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to coordinate the work of U.S. spy agencies.

The White House declined comment on Feinberg’s potential role. Cerberus declined to comment.

Cerberus said last week that Feinberg was in talks to join Trump’s administration in a senior role, without specifying what that role could be. The firm told its investors that it had a succession plan in place that would result in minimal changes to management and operations.

Potential conflicts of interest would also have to be resolved before Feinberg could join the administration. In a letter to investors last week, Cerberus said clearing that hurdle would require Feinberg to provide “voluminous information” and disclosures to the Office of Government Ethics.

Feinberg, 56, who donated to Trump’s 2016 election campaign and served as an economic adviser to him, has no prior experience in government. [Continue reading…]

The New York Times reports: Mr. Feinberg, who has close ties to Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, declined to comment on his possible position. The White House, which is still working out the details of the intelligence review, also would not comment.

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. But top intelligence officials fear that Mr. Feinberg is being groomed for a high position in one of the intelligence agencies.

Mr. Bannon and Mr. Kushner, according to current and former intelligence officials and Republican lawmakers, had at one point considered Mr. Feinberg for either director of national intelligence or chief of the Central Intelligence Agency’s clandestine service, a role that is normally reserved for career intelligence officers, not friends of the president. Mr. Feinberg’s only experience with national security matters is his firm’s stakes in a private security company and two gun makers.

On an array of issues — including the Iran nuclear deal, the utility of NATO, and how best to combat Islamist militancy — much of the information and analysis produced by American intelligence agencies contradicts the policy positions of the new administration. The divide is starkest when it comes to Russia and President Vladimir V. Putin, whom Mr. Trump has repeatedly praised while dismissing American intelligence assessments that Moscow sought to promote his own candidacy. [Continue reading…]

In 2012, Matt Taibbi characterized the business class to which Feinberg belongs, in this way: The new owners of American industry are the polar opposites of the Milton Hersheys and Andrew Carnegies who built this country, commercial titans who longed to leave visible legacies of their accomplishments, erecting hospitals and schools and libraries, sometimes leaving behind thriving towns that bore their names.

The men of the private equity generation want no such thing. “We try to hide religiously,” explained Steven [sic] Feinberg, the CEO of a takeover firm called Cerberus Capital Management that recently drove one of its targets into bankruptcy after saddling it with $2.3 billion in debt. “If anyone at Cerberus has his picture in the paper and a picture of his apartment, we will do more than fire that person,” Feinberg told shareholders in 2007. “We will kill him. The jail sentence will be worth it.” [Continue reading…]

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