harrington22_Sean GallupGetty Images_richardgrenell Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Trump’s Great Purge

US President Donald Trump has unleashed another round of personnel changes in the intelligence community, replacing career national-security officials with unqualified toadies. With the White House's war on intelligence agencies taking its toll, those who remain are likely to be intimidated into submission.

ATLANTA – After nearly four years of inveighing against the US intelligence officials and analysts who revealed Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, Donald Trump is finally acting fully on his paranoia by carrying out a purge. The recent defenestration of top US national-security officials may come as a shock to Americans, but it is no surprise to the Russians. For months, the joke making the rounds in Moscow goes that if Trump would only fire his spy chiefs, he could get his intelligence directly from the source: Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Among those ousted by Trump in the past month were the acting director of national intelligence, Admiral Joseph Maguire, and his deputy. But the removal of senior officials isn’t the most important part of the story. What matters most is that Trump wants to send a message to the intelligence community’s rank and file, which has consistently given the lie to his groundless claims about issues ranging from the North Korean nuclear program to climate change. Trump wants to intimidate US intelligence professionals into submission, and he might just succeed.

There is no question that Trump’s latest round of firings qualify as a “purge.” His interim choice to replace Maguire, Richard Grenell, who had been the US ambassador to Germany, is a notorious Trump sycophant with no intelligence experience. Grenell will happily play to the Oval Office’s audience of one. He has already ordered his own minions to start investigating alleged conspiracies among the intelligence officials who uncovered Russia’s election interference, and to pore over personnel files in search of those who may not be sufficiently loyal to Trump.

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