Trump, the unbriefable president

But Trump does not read the PDB. Or much of anything else, a former senior White House official told me. As his presidency began, it was an open question: Would Trump even bother to sit for CIA briefings? He didn’t, at first, and did so only after Mike Pompeo, then his CIA director, agreed to be there. Trump’s distrust of the intelligence services was stoked by their conclusion that Russia had intervened in the election on his behalf. Given his hostility toward the intelligence community, and his Twitter-sized attention span, Trump would be a challenge for any briefer…

Obama used to attend “Terror Tuesdays,” a special White House session to ensure agencies worked together to meet looming threats. Under Trump, the meetings were scrapped. Meanwhile, Trump removed his acting director of national intelligence, a deputy and the principal executive; the new DNI is a former Texas congressman who echoed Trump’s bogus conspiracy theories during the impeachment proceedings.

As a result, those within the administration who might challenge the president’s deeply held views are as rare as coronavirus vaccines. In January 2019, then-DNI Dan Coats made the politically fatal mistake of telling Congress that Tehran was in compliance with the nuclear agreement. Coats, CIA Director Gina Haspel and Gistaro were treated to an Oval Office tongue lashing and a tweet admonishing them to “go back to school.” This from a man who, prior to being elected, did not know the difference between the Quds Force — elite members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard — and the Kurds.