23:56 GMT30 October 2020
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    President Donald Trump is preparing a major overhaul of the current US intelligence apparatus, following a string of leaks and reports that intelligence community officials are withholding information from the White House.

    The person reported to be spearheading the effort is a New York hedge-fund billionaire and strong Trump ally Stephen A. Feinberg. 

    Feinberg is co-founder of Cerberus Capital Management, and a current member of Trump’s economic advisory council. He has not been officially announced for the job, but the New York Times has reported that private-equity manager has informed his company shareholders that he is in discussions to join the administration.

    On Thursday, Trump vowed to punish those leaking classified information to the press, including the details about phone calls between former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and the Russian ambassador.

    "We're going to find the leakers and they're going to pay a big price," Trump told reporters.

    Details regarding Trump’s phone calls with the leaders of Russia, Mexico, and Australia have also been leaked to the press.

    “The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy. Very un-American!” Trump tweeted on Wednesday.

    John Schindler, former National Security Agency analyst and counterintelligence officer, tweeted two hours later that the intelligence community will now be “going nuclear” against Trump, and added that the President will “die in jail.”Now we go nuclear. 

    “Now we go nuclear. IC war going to new levels. Just got an EM fm senior IC friend, it began: ‘He will die in jail,’” Schindler tweeted.

    During a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the afternoon, Trump referred to the leaks as “criminal” and a result of Democrats seeking to shift the blame for their election loss away from themselves.

    “From intelligence, papers are being leaked, things are being leaked; it’s criminal action. It’s a criminal act, and it’s been going on for a long time before me, but now it’s really going on,” Trump said during a news conference. “People are trying to cover up for a terrible loss that the Democrats had under Hillary Clinton.”

    Last week, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer announced that the administration had launched an investigation into the leaks.

    “The spotlight has finally been put on the low-life leakers! They will be caught!” Trump tweeted on Thursday.

    The hostile relationship between Trump and the intelligence community has also led to reports that information is being withheld from his administration, an issue the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) denied on Wednesday.

    "Any suggestion that the US Intelligence Community is withholding information and not providing the best possible intelligence to the President and his national security team is not true,” according to an ODNI statement released late Wednesday evening.

    The issue was also raised during a Thursday news conference in which Trump announced Alexander Acosta as the new nominee for US Labor Secretary.

    “The people who gave information to the press should be ashamed,” Trump said of the leakers.

    "I've actually called the Justice Department to look into the leaks, those criminal leaks," Trump stated. "I think, you will see it stopping because now we have our people in."

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    Tags:
    Leaks, Intelligence Community, Justice Department, Stephen A. Feinberg, Michael Flynn, Donald Trump
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