Former intelligence professionals angered by what they view as attacks on the intelligence community by President Donald Trump are channeling their grievances by running for office in 2018.
Running as Democrats, these former intelligence officers are touting their experience as part of their pitch to voters in their respective districts across the country.
In particular, they are taking aim at what they view as Trump’s attacks on the intelligence and national security community.
The President has repeatedly criticized the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election and whether the Trump campaign was involved in any way in that interference. He has also openly questioned the assessment from intelligence agencies that Russia was involved in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.
Abigail Spanberger, who served in the CIA for eight years and is one of the top Democratic candidates for her primary race in Virginia’s 7th District, said she finds the political climate “stunning.”
“I find it incredibly detrimental to our long-term stability and security that the President would actively work to undermine the credibility of our intelligence community and our law enforcement community.” Spanberger said in an interview with CNN. “And frankly, the lack of respect that exists for (former FBI Deputy Director Andrew) McCabe, for (special counsel Robert) Mueller, just the lack of professionalism that is being demonstrated, I find just stunning.”
Pat Ryan, who is running in a Democratic primary for New York’s 19th District and is a West Point graduate, was an Army intelligence officer for two combat deployments in Iraq. Ryan emphasized that the complexity of foreign policy “cannot be boiled down to 240 characters in a tweet.”
Reflecting on what it was like to be on the receiving end of an order to go to war, Ryan went as far to say that the President does not understand what is at stake with the threat of war.
“I think the President is way out of his depth,” he said.
Elissa Slotkin, who recently secured an endorsement from former Vice President Joe Biden in her race for a Democratic nomination for Congress in Michigan, is a former CIA security analyst who served three tours in Iraq and worked for both the Bush and Obama administrations in various defense and intelligence roles.
“As someone who is from the intelligence community,” Slotkin explained, “it is worrisome the way that President Trump has demonized the institutions where people are working hard every day to keep us safe.”
Advocating on behalf of her fellow intelligence service candidates Slotkin said that “we’ve had experience putting the public first, and that mission focus certainly will help me and the many veteran and service candidates that are running across the country.”
Jeff Beals, a former CIA intelligence officer who is running for Congress in the same New York district as Ryan, added, “I know what the manipulation of intelligence looks like because I’ve seen it. If I were in Congress, I’d be standing against that and standing up for diplomacy and sound decision making instead of fearmongering and saber rattling.”
Gina Ortiz-Jones, who advances to a runoff for a congressional seat in Texas and has more than a decade of experience as an Air Force intelligence officer and defense intelligence officer, explained why she thinks individuals with backgrounds like hers are exactly what is missing in Washington:
“We have previously demonstrated our ability to put the country above everything else, which includes our lives, and that is what we are missing in Congress right now.”
“I consider myself extremely independently minded,” Slotkin affirmed. “I will never salute a party. I salute my country.”
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the number of years that candidate Abigail Spanberger served in the CIA.