Trump whistleblower claim should outrage all Americans
This first appeared in USA Today.
By 6:30 each morning the daily threat matrix — compiled from various intelligence agencies and offering fearsome snapshots of all the possible dangers afoot — was delivered by a member of the U.S. Coast Guard. Sometimes the listing was modest and sometimes voluminous. Some of the threats seemed far-fetched, others all too plausible.
Each entry required its own interpretation based on a variety of factors, including CIA, FBI and National Security Agency assessments.
As the new guy in town — tapped by President George W. Bush to serve as White House adviser on Homeland Security in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks — it was my job to distill that intelligence in daily briefings with the president. The horrors of 9/11 were still fresh in our memory. It was an awesome responsibility. I knew I had his ear.
Anticipated dangers were coming from all directions, including an anthrax attack that shut down government and took more innocent lives. Politics could not be a consideration in these briefings. I always believed my job was to tell the president what he needed to know, not what he wanted to hear.
If the allegations made last week by a Department of Homeland Security whistleblower are correct — that a senior intelligence analyst was told to stop providing intelligence reports on the threat of Russian interference in the 2020 election because it “made the president look bad” — it should make anyone who had the privilege and responsibility to brief a U.S. president furious, and it should make all Americans shudder.
Patriots risking their lives
As my role transitioned from a presidential adviser to the first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, my appreciation for the work of American intelligence officers only grew. These men and women are true patriots, with those in the field risking their lives to bring back critical information that forms the daily threat assessments used to shape decisions made at the highest levels of government. I can promise you that information saved lives.
Brian Murphy, the DHS official who had been in charge of intelligence and analysis at DHS, said he was told not only to stand down on reporting, he also alleged that he was told to modify intelligence reports, including about white supremacists to bring them in line with President Trump’s public comments. Thankfully, he said he refused that direction.
This episode is yet another example of how President Trump continues to undermine and erode the trust of the American public in our system of government. This is the same man who routinely pronounces that the only way he will lose reelection is if the election itself is rigged. It is hard to imagine a more un-American and fraudulent statement from an incumbent president.
Trump undercuts election process
Every day he finds another way to undermine and denigrate the most fundamental and basic tool of government — our election process.
As a lifelong Republican, I wish those in my party who currently hold the trust of their constituents would speak out. I am astonished that there remains virtual silence on these repeated episodes that hack away at the trust Americans must have in government leaders for our republic to work.
We are in the midst of a pandemic — many Americans are still afraid to leave their homes — yet President Trump wants to make it harder to vote by bashing the proven absentee ballot system. It is unconscionable.
Nineteen years ago on Sept. 11, nearly 3,000 Americans perished at the hands of tyrannical zealots who despise American ideals. If most Americans of a certain age are like me, they will never forget the haunting images of that day. We will never forget.
On this anniversary, let us honor their lives by embracing what it means to be a patriot. Be involved in your community. Educate yourself on these key issues facing our nation. And vote. Vote in person, or if you don’t feel safe because of COVID-19, vote absentee. Your vote will be accurately counted.
Let the memories of those lost on Sept. 11, 2001, be a blessing to their families and friends. Erie nativeTom Ridge was the first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security and a Republican governor of Pennsylvania. He serves as co-chair of VoteSafe, which seeks to ensure all Americans can vote safely during the pandemic.