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Trump considering plans to restructure intelligence agency

In this Dec. 28 file photo, President-elect Donald Trump speaks to reporters at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla. (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)
In this Dec. 28 file photo, President-elect Donald Trump speaks to reporters at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla. (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)
By Julie Pace Associated Press

WASHINGTON – President-elect Donald Trump is considering plans to restructure and slim down a top U.S. intelligence agency, a person familiar with the discussions said Thursday. The move comes after Trump questioned the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered with the presidential election on his behalf.

Trump still is expected to name a Director of National Intelligence, but he is said to be looking at ways to reorganize the agency. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence was created after the Sept. 11 attacks to coordinate other U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Trump also is said to be considering changes at the CIA.

Trump transition spokesman Sean Spicer denied Thursday that Trump was considering “restructuring the intelligence community infrastructure.” Spicer did not specifically address possible changes to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The Wall Street Journal first reported that Trump was looking at changes to the intelligence agency. The person familiar with the plans said Trump was not intending to gut any intelligence agency, but was looking for ways to streamline operations and improve efficiency. The person was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats is a leading candidate for the post but is also under consideration for an ambassadorship. Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett Packard CEO who ran against Trump in the Republican primary, has also been considered for the job.

Since winning the election, Trump has publicly challenged U.S. intelligence officials’ conclusion that Russia meddled in the presidential race to bolster his prospects. A full intelligence report on the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and other groups arrived Thursday at the White House.

Trump was scheduled to be briefed on the report Friday in New York. CIA Director John Brennan, FBI Director James Comey and outgoing DNI James Clapper were among those expected to lay out the report’s evidence and conclusions to the president elect.

Clapper was testifying about the Russian hacking Thursday on Capitol Hill. Asked by Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., if his office had discussed a restructuring of his department with the Trump transition team, Clapper said, “No, we have not.”

Trump has questioned Russia’s involvement and challenged the intelligence community’s track record, particularly the information that led to the Iraq war. On Wednesday, he appeared to side with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whose organization publicly released the hacked Democratic emails. Trump noted in a tweet that Assange said he had not received the materials from Russia.

Trump shifted course Thursday, saying it was “wrong” to say he was in agreement with Assange, adding that he had simply repeated what the WikiLeaks head said. Trump disputed that he was against the intelligence community, writing, “in fact I am a big fan!”

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