These two words should never be used in close proximity, and that is the problem. The first function of the president is to protect the United States and its people from “all enemies, foreign and domestic.” The President’s Daily Brief, the collection of the best intelligence, is the daily summary of what our enemies are up to. It is the crown jewel of the intelligence community; being on the list of people who get a copy is one the main status symbols in Washington.
Unless you’re Donald Trump.
President Donald Trump’s interest in taking intelligence briefings has been declining steadily since his first months in office and has dropped to near zero in recent weeks, according to a HuffPost review of all of his daily schedules.
Trump went from a high of 4.1 briefings per week on average in March 2017 to 0.7 per week since July 1, shortly after it became public that he had ignored intelligence reports about Russia offering bounties to the Taliban for each American soldier killed in Afghanistan.
Monday’s briefing, in fact, was the first in August and the first since July 22. That month had only three briefings scheduled.
The story notes that George W. Bush had his daily briefings before 7 in the morning. (He may have ignored the Bin Laden warning, but at least acknowledged getting it.) Obama had his PDB downloaded on an iPad so he could read at 6 AM. Trump, however, doesn’t want his daily dose of Fox and Friends interrupted by trivia like existential threats to the country, and rarely sees or hears the PDB before noon — on those days when he bothers to hear it at all.
So even though the PDB did have the Russian bounty intelligence, it is believable that Trump never knew about it, or if he did, didn’t bother to retain it, because it just didn’t matter to his re-election.
Asked about the absence of the briefings from the daily schedule, a White House staffer said Trump got more briefings than the schedule showed. Yeah, right.
One former top White House aide, asked on condition of anonymity whether Trump actually took more intelligence briefings than were reflected on his public schedules, began laughing aloud. The aide’s reaction was the same when asked whether Trump reads the intelligence briefing books prepared for him.
This has become an issue in the campaign:
Trump’s engagement on intelligence has become a major issue in his reelection bid, after reports earlier this year that he ignored warnings in his PDBs in January that a pneumonia-like virus was spreading in China. Trump did not have a briefing on his schedule until Jan. 6, a week after Taiwanese authorities raised the alarm with U.S. officials about an epidemic on the mainland.
And it needs to become a bigger one. This is clear, unvarnished, undeniable, dereliction of duty. We are already shouting about it, now we need to be screaming. This is clear and present danger.