Former CIA Director Leaves Trump Team Ahead Of Russian Hacking News


Former CIA director James Woolsey, Jr. parted ways with the Trump transition team yesterday, telling CNN that he no longer wanted to “fly under false colors.”

A source close to Woolsey tells The New York Times that the career national security officer had become “very uncomfortable” being touted as a ‘senior adviser’ when his advice was no longer being heard.

But Woolsey may have timed his announcement with foreknowledge of the news cycle. In almost the same hour, a series of news stories strengthened the narrative of a president-elect who benefited from Russian interference.

Of course, Woolsey’s departure was immediately seen in the context of the public war that reality TV star-turned-president elect Donald Trump has waged against the American intelligence community (IC) ever since they concluded that Russian military intelligence hacked the Democratic Party in order to elect him president.

Made up of seventeen competitive and contentious federal agencies, the IC rarely reaches consensus on anything. But their unanimous resolution has infuriated Trump, who already suffers from a lack of legitimacy.

This week, Trump floated a plan to shake up the IC, including the military but especially the CIA, under the pretense that they have become “politicized.” He also tweeted so glowingly of Russian-backed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that he later felt forced to explain himself.

Trump’s close friend and Fox News booster Sean Hannity interviewed Assange this week in a bid to feed denials that Russia was responsible for the election-related hacking. A Trump spokesman also denied the report of his intentions to restructure the IC.

Yet current IC leaders affirmed their findings before a Senate committee hearing yesterday morning. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that confidence in the Russia-WikiLeaks connection had only increased since the election.

He also stated that Putin had “more than one motive” for his actions, and that Assange has put American intelligence agents in danger.

Notably, Woolsey’s announcement came several hours later — and almost the same moment in which The New York Times reported that the IC became so confident because of intercepted Russian communications celebrating Trump’s election victory in the hours after it happened.

Reuters notes that this explains the timing of President Obama’s public statements, which had drawn criticism.

That’s just one of the revelations contained in a 50-page classified report being read all over Washington, DC this week. Importantly, the IC has also identified the cut-out between Russian intelligence and WikiLeaks.

In some cases, one official said, the material followed what was called “a circuitous route” from the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, to WikiLeaks in an apparent attempt to make the origins of the material harder to trace, a common practice used by all intelligence agencies, including U.S. ones.

These handoffs, the officials said, enabled WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to say the Russian government or state agencies were not the source of the material published on his website.

[…] (A)s time passed and the early leaks attracted media attention that undermined or eclipsed Clinton’s campaign, the Russians increasingly focused their hacking “almost exclusively” on Democratic rather than Republican targets.

Having added gravitas and legitimacy to the Trump transition, Woolsey’s departure leaves the president-elect isolated with habitual fabricator and Putin-worshiper Michael Flynn, who has been tapped to serve as Trump’s National Security Adviser.

Both men are supposed to receive a high-level briefing on the IC’s Russian hacking report today. James Woolsey was apparently not invited, a sleight which may have propelled him towards the exit.

There are other explanations, of course. Observers note that on Monday, Woolsey was quibbling with the IC’s conclusions in a CNN interview that apparently displeased Trump. But that was three days before Woolsey’s announcement.

Rather than issue a statement that he wanted to spend more time with his family, then going quietly, Woolsey went back on CNN Thursday to emphasize the distance between himself and Trump, and he clearly made his close confidants available to the press.

Thanks to the Washington grapevine, he certainly knew the report was circulating and may very well have known that damaging stories would be published before Friday. He certainly would have anticipated and seen yesterday’s hearing. So what did James Woolsey know, and when did he know it?

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