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WASHINGTON — Key U.S. intelligence agencies insist they will continue to provide President Donald Trump with “the best intelligence possible,” but there is growing concern among former officials and analysts that ties between the agencies and the White House are being strained like never before.
Fears of a deteriorating relationship were magnified Thursday, following a more than hourlong news conference during which Trump repeatedly promised to go after any official or analyst leaking information about his administration.
“I’ve gone to all of the folks in charge of the various agencies,” Trump told reporters. “It’s a criminal act.”
“I’ve actually called the Justice Department to look into the leaks,” he added.
Trump also shot down media reports that some agencies have been withholding critical intelligence from him, calling such reporting “disgraceful.”
He cited a statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that was issued late Wednesday in response to a report by the Wall Street Journal.
“Any suggestion that the U.S. intelligence community is withholding information and not providing the best possible intelligence to the president and his national security team is not true,” the statement read.
Following the president’s news conference Thursday, the Central Intelligence Agency issued a statement of its own.
“The CIA does not, has not, and will never hide intelligence from the president, period,” it quoted CIA Director Mike Pompeo as saying. “We are not aware of any instance when that has occurred.”
Former intelligence officials and analysts who spoke with VOA agreed it was highly unlikely current officials would withhold critical information. Still, they said it is hard to imagine that the president’s, at times, combative rhetoric would be seen as anything but a swipe at the agencies and their employees.
“The current animosity is overriding,” said Paul Pillar, a veteran CIA officer now with the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University.