Trump is Blowing Off Intelligence Briefings

Let’s take a look at how the last three presidents handled getting intelligence briefings during the transition period between their early November election and their inauguration on January 20th.

President Bill Clinton got his first post-race briefing on Nov. 13, 1992 — 10 days after the election. He received daily intelligence briefings almost every working day of the rest of the transition time in Little Rock.

President George W. Bush’s first briefing was delayed until Dec. 5 because of the Florida election recount. But Bush, whose father had served as CIA director, asked for daily briefings for the remainder of the transition.

After his election in 2008, President Obama took part not only in regular intelligence briefings but also scheduled “deep dives” on key subjects including Iran’s nuclear program and covert CIA operations, including the accelerating campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan.

“During the transition, President Obama was an avid consumer of intelligence,” said retired Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who was CIA director when Obama was elected.

This is not how Donald Trump is handling things. He has so far refused to sit own with James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence. He has received only two briefings.

Trump was given an initial briefing within days of his election victory, and took part in a second session with senior U.S. intelligence analysts Tuesday in New York before he departed to Florida for the Thanksgiving holiday, officials said. Trump turned other briefing opportunities away.

His running-mate Mike Pence, by contrast, has received intelligence briefings “almost every day since the election.”

However, if you think this indicates a lack of interest in national security matters or a general lack of seriousness, you need to get a life.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a senior member of Trump’s transition team, dismissed the issue, saying that Trump has devoted significant attention to security matters even while meeting with world leaders and assembling his administration.

“National security is Donald Trump’s No. 1 priority and I think he’s taking it very seriously,” Nunes said in an interview. “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.”

So, I’m looking at all the phone calls he’s had on unsecured phones and all the foreign leaders he’s talked to to lobby them on building permits and wind farms and the positions he’s filled with discredited cranks, white nationalists, anti-Semites, and Islamophobes.

It’s not making me feel better.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.