Trump Demoralizes His Own Team With Dizzying Russian Moves

President Trump’s bungled effort to warm up to Russian President Vladimir Putin has driven a wedge between him and his own administration as it seeks to crack down on Moscow’s hostile activities.

Rank-and-file intelligence and national security officials feel demoralized by the president’s failure to publicly call out Putin for interfering in the 2016 election, according to sources inside and outside the federal government.

One U.S. official who formerly worked as an intelligence analyst said the general attitude within government is that “it does damage to our reputation globally” when Trump refuses to acknowledge the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 contest.

But the official said there is “strong faith that our intel folks will continue to do their job, regardless of the undermining.”

The dizzying and often contradictory array of statements from the president and White House have also posed a dilemma for handpicked aides and advisers who are hawkish on Russia: remain on board or resign.

On Wednesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray declined to shoot down reports he has considered stepping down.

Even the president’s supporters admit that his summit with Putin in Helsinki was a missed opportunity to focus on his administration’s efforts to punish Moscow for its interventions in Ukraine and Syria and its efforts to meddle in U.S. political affairs.

“He could have avoided all of this if he said literally 1 1/2 sentences in Helsinki,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “But he didn’t do that.”

“Look, he has got to stick to one thing, and that is, ‘I have been tougher on Russia than Obama and Bush,’ ” O’Connell said.

Read more from Jordan Fabian and Morgan Chalfant at The Hill

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