Report: Trump averaging just one presidential intelligence briefing each week since the election

Well, sure, but it’s a terrific briefing. The best. There’s so much information in this briefing that you couldn’t possibly process all of it with your tiny monkey brain, that I can tell you.

As a NeverTrumper, I’m of two minds about this. One: It’s terrible and dangerous. The president needs to be ready to act judiciously at a moment’s notice. How will he know what to do if he doesn’t know the basic background on what’s going on? Two: If he doesn’t know what’s going on, he’ll probably end up doing whatever Mike Pence, Gen. Mattis, and maybe Mitt Romney want him to do, which sounds like an okay plan, come to think of it.

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…

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. Trump’s spokespeople did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Trump has asked for at least one briefing, and possibly more, from intelligence agencies on specific subjects, one of the officials said. The source declined to identify what subjects interested the president-elect, but said that so far they have not included Russia or France.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence, Trump’s vice president-elect, has been receiving his own PDB at least six days a week, the sources familiar with the matter said.

That’s from Mark Hosenball of Reuters. A biased outlet passing along false info to damage Trump politically? Could be, I guess, but CBS News heard the same thing from a Senate aide, who claims that Trump has declined many daily briefings. The Washington Post heard it as well two weeks ago, and corroborated Hosenball’s report that Pence, unlike Trump, is sitting for his daily briefings diligently. November 23rd:

A senior U.S. official who receives the same briefing delivered to President Obama each day said that devoting time to such sessions would help Trump get up to speed on world events.

“Trump has a lot of catching up to do,” the official said…

The briefings have for decades been made available well before Inauguration Day to newly elected presidents as a way of deepening their understanding of foreign developments. Spy agencies are also eager to cultivate a relationship with the executive who will serve as their most important customer and set their priorities for the next four years…

“The president-elect is missing out on a golden opportunity to learn about the national security threats and challenges facing our nation,” [former CIA director and Clinton supporter Mike] Morell said, “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.”

You could shrug that story off on grounds that it’d only been two weeks since the election, Trump was swamped with other business to attend to, and that he’d catch up after Thanksgiving. Bush, notes WaPo, didn’t get his first briefing until December 5, 2000 due to the court battle with Al Gore. But we’re now two weeks further on and it sounds like he hasn’t picked up the pace. By contrast, Bush reportedly didn’t miss a briefing for the rest of his transition once they had begun. I don’t think the leaks to the media about Trump skipping briefings are meant to embarrass him for the sake of scoring a political point. I think they’re meant to embarrass him so that he starts taking the briefings seriously.

This reminds me of his conflict-of-interest problem in that it’s something he can safely ignore without much fear of a public backlash until something happens to throw a spotlight on the problem, at which point he’ll be politically mutilated over it. No one much cares that global interests will have a financial pipeline to Trump via his businesses — until a year or two from now, when someone will notice that a foreign state whose approval Trump needs for a new building project mysteriously ended up with a lucrative development package from the U.S. government. Was that a quid pro quo? Even if it wasn’t, the media will put Trump the wringer over it. It’ll badly damage his credibility.

Same deal with national security and skipping the briefings, except the political pain in that case will be orders of magnitude greater. Remember, Bush took withering heat after 9/11 for not acting more aggressively in response to the President’s Daily Brief of August 6, 2001, which warned about Bin Laden’s intention to attack the United States. We can debate what he should have done in response, but Bush at least did receive the briefing. Imagine the reaction if it turned out he had skipped it entirely. Every hour he spent between that day and the attack would have been scrutinized in hindsight, with people wondering why he couldn’t have devoted this hour of recreation or that hour of sleep to being briefed by the CIA instead. This is what Trump is setting himself up for. If there’s a terror attack or some sort of foreign policy crisis in the first few weeks of his presidency, he’ll be hammered for having failed to prepare, fairly or not. And as with the conflicts-of-interest kerfuffle, he’ll be accused of not taking his new job entirely seriously. He’s a fool not to anticipate that and to hand his enemies this ammo. It’s not just intelligence malpractice, it’s political malpractice.

If you don’t believe me, watch this bit from Michael Moore last night. He’s showing Trump exactly what’s in store for him from the left. Even beyond that, public knowledge that Trump isn’t sitting regularly for briefings will color perceptions of his presidency generally. He already has some skepticism to overcome outside his party that he’s fit for office; the sense that he wasn’t qualified was a persistent problem for him in polling this summer. Blowing off briefings is going to reinforce the impression, even among people who might otherwise be willing to give him a fair shake, that he’s disengaged and “winging it” on the highest highwire in global statesmanship. What a silly gamble to take.