An extraordinary breach has emerged between President-elect Donald J. Trump and the national security establishment, with Mr. Trump mocking American intelligence assessments that Russia interfered in the election on his behalf, and top Republicans vowing investigations into Kremlin activities.
Mr. Trump, in a statement issued by his transition team on Friday evening, expressed complete disbelief in the intelligence agencies’ assessments. “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” Mr. Trump’s team said, adding that the election was over and that it was time to “move on.”
Though Mr. Trump has wasted no time in antagonizing the agencies, to carry out priorities like combating terrorism and deterring cyberattacks he will have to rely on them for the sort of espionage activities and analysis that they spend more than $70 billion a year to perform.
At this point in a transition, a president-elect is usually delving into intelligence he has never before seen and learning about C.I.A. and National Security Agency abilities. But Mr. Trump, who has taken intelligence briefings only sporadically, is questioning not only analytic conclusions, but also their underlying facts.
“To have the president-elect of the United States simply reject the fact-based narrative that the intelligence community puts together because it conflicts with his a priori assumptions — wow,” said Michael V. Hayden, who was the director of the N.S.A. and later the C.I.A. under President George W. Bush.
With the partisan emotions on both sides — Mr. Trump’s supporters see a plot to undermine his presidency, and Hillary Clinton’s supporters see a conspiracy to keep her from the presidency — the result is an environment in which even those basic facts become the basis for dispute.