Saturday, December 10, 2016

As Trump skips intel briefings, questions intensify

12/09/16 08:41 AM—Updated 12/09/16 05:32 PM
By Steve Benen

One of the more surprising aspects of Donald Trump’s transition period is his habit of skipping intelligence briefings. Immediately after the election, President Obama ordered national security officials to give Trump and Mike Pence access to the same information he receives daily, so that they’re up to speed and fully prepared when they take office in January.

But as NBC News and the Washington Post reported, a team of intelligence analysts “has been prepared to deliver daily briefings on global developments and security threats to Trump,” but the Republican president-elect has generally blown them off. As of earlier this week, Trump had reportedly only received four of these briefings – for an average of one per week – since Election Day.

That’s consistent with a new Reuters report on the matter,

President-elect Donald Trump is receiving an average of one presidential intelligence briefing a week, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter, far fewer than most of his recent predecessors.

Although they are not required to, presidents-elect have in the past generally welcomed the opportunity to receive the President’s Daily Brief (PDB), the most highly classified and closely held document in the government, on a regular basis.

It was not immediately clear why Trump has decided not to receive the intelligence briefings available to President Barack Obama more frequently, or whether that has made any difference in his presidential preparations.

This hasn’t gone unnoticed. In a USA Today op-ed yesterday, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the ranking members on the Senate Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committees, respectively, noted they find it “particularly troubling” that the president-elect “has mostly declined to take the daily intelligence briefing” – breaking with what other presidents-elect have done for decades.

Former CIA Director Leon Panetta added this week that “one of the concerns I have right now is that this president is not getting his intelligence briefings.”

He’s right to be concerned. Trump has no experience or background in government, foreign policy, national security, or counter-terrorism. If intelligence agencies stand ready, every day, to provide him with access to classified information – walking him through international developments, answering any questions he may have, etc. – it’s to his (and our) benefit that he take the time to learn.

If Trump has time to complain about “Saturday Night Live” and attend self-indulgent rallies celebrating himself, he has time to attend intelligence briefings.


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