Former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden said Tuesday that President Donald Trump is “disdainful” and “contemptuous of the normal processes of government” that would prepare him for interactions with diplomats from an adversarial nation like Russia.
The results of that indifference, Hayden told CNN’s “New Day,” are situations like the one the White House found itself in Monday evening, responding to reports that Trump had revealed highly sensitive intelligence to Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador to the U.S. during an Oval Office meeting last week.
The White House, via a statement from national security adviser H.R. McMaster, has called the Post’s report “false” and argued that “it didn’t happen.” But in a series of posts to Twitter Tuesday morning, the president himself seemed to confirm the Post’s reporting by writing that “I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety.”
“Here is a president who does not seem to prepare in detail, is a bit disdainful, even contemptuous of the normal processes of government, the institutions of government in order to get him ready, who kind of flies by the seat of his pants, is spontaneous in these conversations,” Hayden said. “And that’s just an approach that’s triggered to create the kind of events we saw last week. It doesn’t require anyone to be malevolent. It’s just a by-product of the approach the president seems to have to these kinds of meetings.”
Hayden, a top intelligence official in the administration of former President George W. Bush, was critical of the president throughout the 2016 campaign and said Democrat Hillary Clinton was better prepared to lead the nation on issues of national security than Trump, whose foreign policy stances Hayden once called “incoherent.”
The former CIA and NSA chief was more hesitant to criticize McMaster and deputy national security adviser Dina Powell, both of whom Hayden said were his friends and “were put in a very difficult situation and did the best that they could.” Beyond the White House, Hayden called on the nation’s political leadership writ large to begin calling out the president more forcefully. The silence Trump’s supposed missteps have been met with by the GOP, Hayden said, is “leading us to a bad spot.”
“I can live with the inexperience. We’re all inexperienced in one way or another when we go to a new job. What I’m focused on is the seeming lack of humility in the face of obvious inexperience,” Hayden told CNN. “Here is a president who seems to go into these encounters with frankly an unjustified self-confidence in the ability of his person to make these things come out right.”