OPINION -- Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer last week joined the very public chorus of defense experts in questioning whether President Trump’s call for reducing fiscal 2020 DoD spending to $700 billion will actually take place. With the deficit soaring, Trump back in mid-October, told his cabinet members, with TV ...

OPINION -- “Do the Russians continue to hold some financial leverage over the president?”  That is one question Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) will be looking to get answered as he looks forward to January when he will take over the chairmanship of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. “If the ...

The U.S. is calling for more rigorous enforcement of sanctions against Russia after Russian ships fired on and seized three Ukrainian boats on Sunday, claiming the ships had ‘illegally’ entered its waters.  Russia has been using Ukraine as a provocation point for some time, so will the tougher enforcement of ...

OPINION -- The media should be satisfied with President Trump’s telephoned “visit to the troops overseas” from his Mar-a-Lago resort on Thanksgiving Day, and not keep asking him when he plans to travel abroad to meet with them in a combat zone. First of all, the November 22, conversations were ...

President Donald Trump is expected to receive a full report on the killing of Washington Post Journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Tuesday.  The President called a leaked CIA conclusion that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for the Khashoggi's killing "very premature" in comments over the weekend, though he ...

  Bottom Line Up Front As the recent World War I centenary tribute in Paris foreshadowed, the world order may be shifting, with the contours of a ‘Post-American Order’ slowly taking shape. The defining characteristic of a post-American world would be multipolarity, with revisionist powers like Russia and China growing ...

OPINION -- President Trump’s pre-election-day deployment of U.S. Army units on the southwest border may turn out to be more of a dangerous, long-term precedent than a short-term, political stunt. Forget about the Posse Comitatus Act, which in the past, has been thought to protect civilians from the government’s use ...

OPINION -- President Donald Trump’s recent threat to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) provides another false justification for adding to a needless, nuclear arms race that is already underway. Yes, the United States has a right to protest the fact that the Russians are breaking limitations ...

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is touting his recent trip to Pyongyang as a success, saying that he was able to make ‘real progress’ toward denuclearization, and that a second summit between North Korean President Kim Jung Un and President Donald Trump, will be announced soon. Cipher Brief Expert and ...

President Donald Trump largely followed the U.S. policy script on Iran when he addressed the United Nations on Wednesday.  So what exactly, did the key players get out of the verbal nack and forth and what does it mean for the future complicated relations between the U.S., its European partners, ...

Cipher Brief Expert and Former CIA Senior Deputy Counsel Robert Eatinger weighs in on the realities of a potential lawsuit. On last Sunday’s Meet the Press, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan said he was considering a court challenge to the President’s decision to revoke his security ...

Cipher Brief Update:  On August 23, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a Special Representative for North Korea.  Steve Biegun will "direct all U.S. policy on North Korea, lead negotiations, and spearhead our diplomatic efforts with our allies and partners," according to the State Department. Progress in nuclear dismantlement following ...

OPINION -- Don’t believe that President Trump’s retaliatory act of revoking former-CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance “will have a potentially chilling effect on the United States’ law enforcement and intelligence officers,” as the New York Times wrote in its Friday front page story. In my view, it will have ...

The backlash over President Trump’s decision last week to revoke the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan has gotten plenty of media attention over the past several days.  The Cipher Brief spokes with former CIA Chief of Station Dan Hoffman about a perspective not widely discussed. Hoffman: This ...

OPINION -- Congress has to take a serious, long, hard, public look at President Trump’s June off-the-cuff idea of a Space Corps, and turn down, rather than blindly approve, the idea for a fourth separate military service, with its own Secretary of Space.  It’s clear that the Trump administration has ...

By threatening a devastating war against Iran, President Donald Trump’s recent response to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani’s benign statement about “the mother of all peace” and “the mother of all war” is another example of erratic and dangerous foreign policy pronouncements. Trump tweeted in capital letters that Iran “will suffer ...

In a press conference on Monday, President Donald Trump reiterated his view that meeting with other world leaders is important, and again characterized his recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin as “great”.  While details of that meeting still haven’t been widely shared, the President noted four areas where he ...

I served the United States for 48 years in various national security roles that required me to hold a security clearance.   I saw it as a privilege, granted by our government, and reflecting the nation’s trust and confidence in my loyalty and my professional knowledge and abilities.  It wasn’t, nor ...

OPINION -- President Trump’s repeated message that Russia’s possession of nuclear weapons requires him to have better relations with Vladimir Putin, should encourage China to sharply increase the size of its strategic nuclear forces. That’s the message in an article entitled, “China can learn from Trump’s Russia stance,” carried in ...

As most of the President’s men and women in senior roles re-iterated and even provided more detail about the Russian threat to U.S. national security in the days following the Helsinki summit, the President tasked his national security advisor to extend an invitation to Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit ...

In the four days since the Trump-Putin summit, we’ve seen a parade of justified emotion as Republicans joined the chorus of critics speaking out against the President’s performance at the Helsinki press conference. But as prominent members of his own party began to find their voice, and the President tried, ...

Cipher Brief Expert and former CIA Station Chief Dan Hoffman was in Helsinki filing question and answer dispatches for Cipher Brief members. Here’s a look at his post-summit brief: The Cipher Brief: Presidents Trump and Putin met for a little over two hours on Monday.  We’re told that aides were not ...

The Cipher Brief spoke with Jill Dougherty, Global Fellow at The Wilson Center and CNN's former Moscow Bureau Chief, about what Putin will be able to take away from this summit. The Cipher Brief:  Tell me a little bit about how this summit is being reported on in Russia? Dougherty:  ...

Cipher Brief Expert and former CIA Station Chief Dan Hoffman is on the ground in Helsinki filing question and answer dispatches for Cipher Brief members.  He has deep expertise in the region and speaks fluent Finnish. Here’s a look at his first dispatch, hours before the summit is set to ...

UPDATED: As U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin emerge from their summit meeting in Helsinki, Finland, in which no aides were allowed in the meeting, The Cipher Brief takes an analytical look at the U.S. - Russian relationship under Putin.  Cipher Brief Expert Rob Dannenberg breaks down what we have ...

The White House put out a statement this morning as President Donald Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg offered comments to reporters before breakfast, with the President telling reporters that “We have a very good relationship.  Because of me, they’ve raised about $40 billion over the last year.  So ...

As a former member of the CIA’s Senior Intelligence Service, I’m worried about the upcoming summit between the Chekist former KGB officer, President Vladimir Putin, and the former real estate businessman and reality show personality, President Donald Trump. My concerns center around the fact that Russia has much to gain, ...

Journalists need to find a way to pin down President Trump, and his June 10 press conference in Singapore provided a clear example of one way to do it. The subject was whether Trump had brought up human rights in his meeting with North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un. When first asked about ...

In my thirty-four years in law enforcement, I met with many confidential human sources working against terrorism, counter intelligence and violent crime targets.  I met them in inner city neighborhoods, rural small towns and a number of countries overseas.  The meetings often took place late at night, in the front ...

The Trump administration has yet to make public its objectives for a North Korea denuclearization agreement, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated what it should contain during questioning by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) last Thursday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “We are looking for the complete dismantlement of ...

After days threatening to take action, President Donald Trump announced Friday evening that he'd ordered "precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities," of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. Trump said U.S. forces acted together with France and the U.K.,  retaliating for a suspected poison gas attack that killed ...

The framers of the U.S. Constitution decided 230 years ago to divide the nation’s war powers between the president and the Congress, making the president the commander in chief of the armed forces and giving the lawmakers the exclusive power to declare war. Yet, as 2018 gets underway, the executive ...

U.S. President Donald Trump responded to a flamboyant welcome by Chinese President Xi Jinping with effusive praise, as the two leaders presented a united front in the face of a belligerent North Korea. However, inconsistent statements on trade and other key issues in the relationship reflect a seemingly incoherent U.S. ...

A critical diplomatic post took a major step towards being filled when the nominee for U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan appeared at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday. John Bass, the current U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, faced questions from Senators about the future of Afghanistan, less ...

After U.S. President Donald Trump’s lengthy meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 in Hamburg, Germany, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated that the two had discussed Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. After Putin denied any Russian involvement, Tillerson said Trump “is ...

In his readout of the two hour and 15 minute meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Trump repeatedly brought up Russian meddling in the U.S. election during the meeting. In his words, the two leaders had “a very ...

After weeks of anticipation, U.S. President Donald Trump finally met face-to-face with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany. The relationship between the two leaders has been characterized by lofty praise and suggestions of cooperation on the fight against ISIS. The relationship between ...

The meeting of NATO heads of state on May 25 in Brussels, dubbed the “little summit,” did not bring any breakthroughs. Still, it was far from just a routine gathering. Symbolically, it introduced the new NATO headquarters, as well as stressed the Alliance’s modernization. It was seen as a demonstration ...

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, at age 33, is continuing his father’s and grandfather’s pattern of wild threats and bluster to cloak development of nuclear warheads and missile delivery systems that has caused problems for American presidents since Dwight Eisenhower. President Trump, aged 70 and a novice at dealing with ...

“The president needs to look strong and decisive, and China is a convenient whipping boy,” Quartz White House correspondent Heather Timmons wrote Friday. Is President Donald Trump, to save a faltering presidency, planning to create friction with China when he meets Chinese President Xi Jinping in Mar-a-Lago today? Trump will ...

Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi is at the White House on Monday with the high hopes of receiving strong support from U.S. President Donald Trump. One of the major issues that the Egyptian President will surely stress to attain this favor is the sustainment of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty. While ...

Two White House officials provided House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes with the information concerning intelligence reports that showed President Donald Trump and campaign associates were picked up incidentally in foreign surveillance, according to a news report. The New York Times reported Thursday that two White House officials — Ezra Cohen-Watnick, ...

President Donald Trump and his family’s myriad financial activities are unique for a White House occupant. Prior to becoming Defense Secretary, James Mattis on January 5 signed an ethics agreement that stated, “I will not participate personally and substantially in any particular matter in which I know that I have ...

The bombastic, bleak tone from his Inaugural Address was gone. In his address to Congress Tuesday night, President Donald Trump was more optimistic, talking about “a new chapter of American greatness.” He spoke about issues he’s discussed before – jobs, healthcare, tax cuts, immigration, a renewed military, America first – ...

There has been much said about how often President-elect Donald Trump takes his Presidential Daily Brief (PDB), the Intelligence Community’s (IC) assessment of key national security threats.  The PDB is critical, and reports that the President-elect has upped the frequency to three times a week are encouraging.   As someone who ...

The White House sought to present the resignation of President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, as a closed chapter tied to his deceiving Vice President Mike Pence on the nature of his discussions with the Russian ambassador to the United States. But as the shake up unfolds, the ...

The resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn came only three weeks into a whirlwind beginning for the Trump Administration. The Cipher Brief’s Leone Lakhani spoke to former Acting Director of the CIA John McLaughlin – who served seven presidents and watched three transitions closely – about how the next ...

“What did the President know and when did he know it?” For those of us who went through Watergate, that question, first posed by Sen. Howard Baker (R-TN), is the one most relevant today as the current White House drama unfolds with President Donald Trump’s role hardly mentioned. At 6:28 ...

With the resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, there have been questions about the security implications of his conversations with the Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak before he took office.  But speaking to The Cipher Brief’s Leone Lakhani, Jack Keane, retired four-star general and former Vice Chief ...

On Thursday February 9th, President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping had their first phone call. Accounts from both sides described the call as productive and cordial. Most importantly for the future of the bilateral relationship, Trump affirmed U.S. recognition of the “One-China Policy,” reversing an uneasy start to ...