Speed Reads

Trump Transition

National Security Council staff reportedly dreads Trump's morning tweets, crafts policy to match

The National Security Council, nominally headed by embattled National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, is the White House's central nervous system for foreign challenges and relationships, with staff drawn from the State Department, Pentagon, and other agencies. President Trump's NSC is "so far a very dysfunctional NSC," Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, tells The New York Times, and "more than two dozen current and former council staff members and others throughout the government" corroborate his judgment. The Times draws from those accounts to explain how the day starts for many NCS staffers:

Three weeks into the Trump administration, council staff members get up in the morning, read President Trump's Twitter posts, and struggle to make policy to fit them. Most are kept in the dark about what Mr. Trump tells foreign leaders in his phone calls. Some staff members have turned to encrypted communications to talk with their colleagues, after hearing that Mr. Trump's top advisers are considering an "insider threat" program that could result in monitoring cellphones and emails for leaks. [The New York Times]

Many of the Times' anonymous anecdotes involve Flynn — he was reportedly "surprised to learn that the State Department and Congress play a pivotal role in foreign arms sales and technology transfers," and "was not familiar with how to call up the National Guard in an emergency." But there are also stylistic differences in presenting intelligence to Trump, who reportedly likes policy options presented on a single sheet of paper with lots of graphics and maps.

Partly because of Flynn's unexplained ties to Russia, the NSA and other agencies are "beginning to withhold intelligence from a White House which our spies do not trust," former NSA analyst John R. Schindler writes in the New York Observer. "What's going on was explained lucidly by a senior Pentagon intelligence official, who stated that 'since Jan. 20, we've assumed that the Kremlin has ears inside the SITROOM,' meaning the White House Situation Room," Schindler writes, quoting the unidentified official as warning: "There's not much the Russians don't know at this point."

Still, Flynn feels safe in his job for now, "people close to Flynn" tell The Washington Post, and "people in Trump's orbit" agree that Trump won't fire him because, as The Post paraphrases, "doing so would amount to an admission of guilt and misjudgment in the face of media scrutiny and would also demonstrate chaos early in his presidency."