JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s been less than a month since Donald Trump took office, but already there are numerous reports that the National Security Council, which advises the president on key foreign, military and intelligence issues, is in disarray.
The leader of the NSC, retired Army General Michael Flynn, has come under increasing criticism for his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.
We turn now to Leon Panetta. He served as the director of the CIA and secretary of defense during the Obama administration. He also served as White House chief of staff for President Clinton. And David Sanger, he covers national security for The New York Times.
And we welcome both of you back to the program.
David Sanger, I’m going to start with you.
You and your colleagues at The New York Times wrote a pretty remarkable story yesterday about — well, you can’t use any words other than disarray, chaos, inside the National Security Council. Given that, and the events of today, where do things stand?
DAVID SANGER, The New York Times: Well, I think that everybody in the National Security Council is wondering when they’re going to begin to get to what the council is supposed to be doing, which is coordinate among the different agencies of government, bring in intelligence, debate policy.
And several things have gotten in the way of doing that, Judy. The first is that, as you reported before, General Flynn has been under this cloud and investigation. And now we hear just a little while ago that President Trump and Vice President Pence are considering his fate, that just an hour after we were told that he’s got the president’s full confidence.
The second thing that is going on is that the staff itself is a little bit paranoid right now. They know that Mr. Flynn has talked about starting an insider threat program. That seems to them to be an invitation for their e-mails to be monitored, their cell phones to be watched. We don’t know that any of that is going to happen, but it gives you a sense of the mood.
And the third thing is that many of the people on the NSC, this body that is supposed to coordinate all this different policy, come from the agencies, and they feel as if they have been frozen out. And yet there is no one above them who has got a clear job responsibility.
So I would say that, for an operation that is supposed to run like a business, it’s not running much like a business.