Dr. Michael Poznansky discusses the controversy surrounding President-elect Trump & the U.S. Intelligence Community

Dr. Michael Poznansky, assistant professor of international affairs and intelligence studies, spoke with KDKA host Robert Mangino about the latest developments between the U.S. Intelligence Community and President-elect Trump.
The discussion focused on the recent upheaval over President-elect Trump’s “Tweets” regarding the intelligence community assessment of the Russian government’s attempt to interfere with the presidential election.  Mr. Mangino pressed Poznansky on the President-elects “dealings” with the U.S. intelligence community. Citing Cyber Commander Chief Mike Rogers, Poznansky believes “it’s not irresponsible or unusual for presidents to be skeptical of intelligence assessments.” "What is unusual," he said "is airing those grievances publicly."

To listen to the interview, click here.


Michael Poznansky is an Assistant Professor of International Affairs and Intelligence Studies at GSPIA. His current research explores the role that secrecy and deception play in world politics. Prior to joining GSPIA, Professor Poznansky was a research fellow with the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. He earned his BA in Political Science from the University of Delaware and his MA and PhD in Politics from the University of Virginia.

Full Transcript

Robert Mangino: Earlier today, there was a hearing that took place… senate arms service committee and in this hearing Senator John McCain said ‘Every American should be alarmed by Russia’s attack on our nation.’ And this hearing was supposed to make it clear without any real room for doubt that Russia was involved in hacking of America and involved in the electoral system and the process and with us… Right now to talk about this is Dr. Michael Poznansky, professor at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs…
Robert Mangino: Doctor: Did this hearing today firmly establish beyond doubt that Russia was involved in hacking when it comes to the elections in this county?

Dr. Poznansky: It’s great to be with you. So, what today essentially did was to try and make more public the intelligence community’s assessment that the Russian government had in fact directed hacks of the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s and John Podesta’s email… So it’s not necessarily that these are new revelations per se… but that they are just bringing to light some of what the intelligence community has found previously… 

Robert Mangino: So, did we learn anything new today?

Dr. Poznansky: Well, I wouldn’t say we learned anything new per se. What we saw was a pretty symbolic gesture, which was the DNI James Clapper and the head of the NSA and Cyber Command Mike Rogers standing up in front of Congress and essentially saying that we believe with a high degree of certainty that the Russian government actually directed these (attacks). So, there are a few other questions that remain in terms of motive and intent, and so forth, but it seems fairly certain at this point that the Russian government did in fact direct the hacks. 

Robert Mangino: Is there room now for Trump and supporters of President-elect Donald Trump to say ‘we still don’t know for sure that Russia was involved?’

Dr. Poznansky: Well, I think it is important to make the following distinction… There is a distinction that I think the Trump administration has been pushing back against which is whether or not the if the hack had any influence on the election… and to be fair to the incoming administration, we can’t actually know that… but I think it will be exceedingly difficult, especially after the briefing on Friday where Trump will meet with the top Intel chiefs to cast further doubt on the fact that the Russian governments… did in fact, do what the intelligence community is saying they did.

Robert Mangino: What do you think the way President-elect Donald Trump has been dealing with the intelligence community so far with the way he has tweeted regarding them? 

Dr. Poznansky: Well, I will use a word that has been thrown around a lot around this election cycle and in the following weeks which is “unprecedented.”  It is fairly rare, if not unprecedented for an incoming president-elect to openly cast doubt on intel assessments and it is also quite unusual to air these grievances so publicly. So it’s alarming and the hope is once Trump either gets into the White House January 20th or ideally, in the days leading up to that, he begins to actually listen to the intelligence community, which is trying to help not only him, but U.S. national security. 

Robert Mangino: Is there a danger that the county faces with a president that doesn’t accept the intelligence as it is delivered to him? 

Dr. Poznansky: Yeah, it’s important to remember that the aspersions cast against the intelligence community go far beyond the Russian election hack… The intelligence community is responsible for providing the president and the U.S. government with all sorts of information about the threats we face from terrorist threats to combatting ISIS, nuclear weapons issues and so forth… So a contentious relationship between the president and the intel community is cause for alarm far beyond the Russia issue…

Robert Mangino: But isn’t it also true, that there is a healthy skepticism regarding intelligence that is good for a president to have? 

Dr. Poznansky: Oh, certainly. So Mike Rogers in the Senate Arms Services Committee hearing today said exactly that point, which is, it’s not irresponsible or unusual for presidents to be skeptical of intelligence assessments. What is unusual, as I said is airing those grievances publicly… and essentially embracing unsavory figures like Julian Assange and others over intel community assessments… so in that regards, that is unusual and dangerous….

Robert Mangino: Donald Trump has selected former Indiana Republican Senator Dan Coats as his director of national intelligence… your thoughts about that selection?

Dr. Poznansky: Yeah, I think it’s a little early to tell… the same goes for Mike Pompeo as the CIA director… Coats has some experience having served on the Senate Arms Services Committee which is heartening, so he is not a complete outsider… and Pompeo has actually served on intel committees as well… so I think all else equal, it’s good that they have some experience, but we will have to see how they do in the confirmation hearings….and after they are vetted a little more carefully, because Coats was fairly new, we weren’t sure who Trump was going to pick, per se…

Robert Mangino: Dr. Michael Poznansky, professor, University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, joining us on the blank phone line… Thank you, Dr.!

Robert Mangino: Thank you for having me on…I appreciate it.


Graduate School of Public and International Affairs
3601 Wesley W. Posvar Hall, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260