On Friday, the Washington Post reported that in a break from precedent established by previous modern presidents, President Trump “rarely if ever reads the President’s Daily Brief, a document that lays out the most pressing information collected by U.S. intelligence agencies from hot spots around the world.”
Instead, every two or three days, Trump receives an oral briefing that summarizes the PDB for him.
In 2014, Trump attacked President Obama for allegedly not reading his intelligence briefings.
Fact–Obama does not read his intelligence briefings nor does he get briefed in person by the CIA or DOD. Too busy I guess!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2014
The Post’s piece indicates Trump’s attack 2014 on Obama was inaccurate. Unlike Trump, Obama reportedly “received the PDB on a secure iPad to review before asking questions of his briefers.”
Despite his criticism of Obama, Trump signaled he had little interest in receiving daily intelligence briefings before he even took office. Trump told Fox News in a December 2016 interview that he doesn’t need them because he’s “a smart person.”
“I don’t have to be told — you know, I’m, like, a smart person. I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years,” Trumps said. “Could be eight years — but eight years. I don’t need that.”
‘An avid consumer of intelligence’
Intelligence community officials quoted in the Post’s piece tried to downplay the significance of Trump not reading the briefing.
Michael Anton, a spokesman for the National Security Council, is quoted as saying that Trump “is an avid consumer of intelligence, appreciates the hard work of his briefers and of the entire intelligence community and looks forward every day to the give and take of his intelligence briefings.” Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, said Trump “engages for significantly longer periods than I understand many previous presidents have done.”
But others, including former National Security Agency lawyer Susan Hennessey, are troubled by the piece’s implication about Trump’s interest (or lack thereof) in staying as informed as possible.
I think people are missing the larger point in this article. It's not that Trump prefers oral briefings, it's that there are lots of indicators he isn't investing the necessary time and attention to get the information at all. https://t.co/EctXAsnP7J
— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) February 9, 2018
There are plenty indications that Trump has a lot to learn. Last August, Trump managed to jam four false statements into a single tweet about nuclear weapons. In December, Trump made at least seven false claims about Russia in one 90-second interaction with reporters.
Trump doesn’t like to read
It’s not just the President’s Daily Brief — Trump doesn’t like to read anything. Earlier this week, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly suggested to reporters that a 10-page Republican intelligence memo was “too lengthy” for Trump to read. Instead, Kelly said the White House would “get some people down to brief him on it.”
There have been a string of reports detailing Trump’s aversion to reading. The Huffington Post reported that memos prepared for Trump “must be no more than a single page. They must have bullet points but not more than nine per page.” According to the New York Times, “staff members are now being told to keep papers [for Trump] to a single page, with lots of graphics and maps.”
Meanwhile, the White House blocks out hours each day for “Executive Time,” which involves Trump watching cable news and tweeting. Trump regularly live-tweets Fox & Friends — even going as far as to tag the show’s Twitter account in his tweets — and yet, at other times, denies that he spends time watching television.
“Believe it or not, even when I’m in Washington or New York, I do not watch much television,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One in November. “Primarily because of documents. I’m reading documents. A lot.”