Politics

Trump Turning Away Intelligence Briefers

| by Robert Fowler

It has been over two weeks since President-elect Donald Trump won Nov. 8, but the business mogul has so far only fit two classified intelligence briefings into his transition schedule, a far more relaxed pace than his predecessors.

As of Nov. 23, Trump had twice received the President's Daily Brief, a highly confidential dossier of world events compiled by all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies and orally delivered by elite intelligence analysts, The Washington Post reports.

The ideal schedule for a president-elect is to receive the brief on a daily basis, but Trump has only set aside the time to be brought up to speed on world events twice: once shortly after his election on Nov. 8, and a second time on Nov. 22.

In contrast, President Barack Obama kept a daily base with briefings during his 2008 process and even set aside time for deep dives into thorny geopolitical issues. Former CIA director Michael Hayden described Obama during this timeframe as "an avid consumer of intelligence."

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Former President George W. Bush rigorously received daily briefings after the Florida election recount was resolved. Former President Bill Clinton was a late-starter, but eventually became a disciplined consumer of daily briefings.

"The last three presidents-elect used the intelligence briefings offered during the transition to literally study the national security issues that they would be facing and the world leaders with whom they would be interacting as president," said Michael Morell, former deputy CIA director.

Morell added that Trump "is missing out on a golden opportunity to learn about the national security threats and challenges facing our nation, knowledge that would be extremely valuable to have when he takes the oath of office and when he steps into the Situation Room for the first time."

The president-elect has also been unconventional in his approach to communicating with foreign leaders. While Obama waited two days to get on the phone with any foreign leaders after receiving his daily briefings, Trump had taken calls from nine foreign heads of state on election night alone, according to CNN.

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Trump's eagerness to talk with foreign leaders before receiving briefings and counsel from the U.S. intelligence community has alarmed several officials. Meanwhile, a senior member of the Trump transition team, Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California, believes that the concern is overblown.

"National security is Donald Trump's No. 1 priority and I think he's taking it very seriously," Nunes said. "Look how many leaders he's met with, how many phone calls he's done, positions he's filled. People who are being critical need to get a life."

Nunes did not address the concern that Trump is speaking to foreign leaders without vetting and crucial context provided by the State Department and the daily briefings.

On Nov. 10, CIA Director John Brennan stated that the daily briefings would likely alter Trump's perception of national security threats and impact his foreign policy approach, CBS News reports.

"It's very important that we follow through on our treaty obligations and continue to reassure our allies that America's commitment to them and their security and to the relationships we have with them is going to stay strong," Brennan told students at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

"I'm sure when President-elect Trump is briefed on a lot of these issues, there's going to be greater clarity on why we do certain things and why we have certain kinds of arrangements," Brennan added.

Sources: CBS News, CNNThe Washington Post / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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