Donald Trump says presidents don't need daily intelligence briefings. And Donald Trump thinks presidents who skip daily intelligence briefings aren't doing their job.
Rewind: In tweets during President Obama's second term, Trump hit him — hard — for “skipping” his own intelligence briefings while still campaigning and fundraising and golfing.
Trump isn't president yet. But so far, he's nowhere close to matching the briefing attendance record he slammed Obama for — not even close.
As The Post's Glenn Kessler wrote back in 2012 — in response to a GOP ad making similar assertions — Obama didn't technically “skip” any briefings. That claim was predicated on the idea that a president should receive an in-person briefing every day, but many presidents haven't done that. Obama chooses to sometimes read his briefing and have his advisers sit in on the in-person version. Kessler labeled it “a misguided attack.”
“As it turns out, no president does it the exact same way,” Kessler concluded. “Under the standards of this ad, Republican icon Ronald Reagan skipped his intelligence briefings 99 percent of the time.”
Back to today. Trump is only getting briefed about once a week. He dismissed questions about it Sunday by telling Fox News's Chris Wallace, “I get it when I need it,” and arguing that the briefings tend to be repetitive. “I'm, like, a smart person,” he said. “I don't have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years.”
Trump has dispatched Vice President-elect Mike Pence to take the briefings on a more regular basis. He further explained Sunday: “Now, in the meantime, my generals are great — are being briefed. And Mike Pence is being briefed, who is, by the way, one of my very good decisions. He is terrific. And they're being briefed. And I'm being briefed also. But if they're going to come in and tell me the exact same thing that they tell me — you know, it doesn't change, necessarily.”
These Trump comments run totally counter to his past criticisms of Obama for not taking his daily briefings in-person. Obama receives the daily briefing, also known as the “President's Daily Brief,” or PDB, six times per week. Not all of these are or were in-person, but that's still many more briefings than Trump is receiving. And Trump's stance on the importance of these briefings seems to have changed completely.
If we're being charitable, perhaps Trump thinks he's exceptional when it comes to not needing the briefings. Perhaps he thought Obama was more in need of them because Obama isn't as much of a “smart person.” This isn't what Trump is saying, mind you; it's just about the only way his comments today could make sense given his 2012 and 2014 tweets.
It's worth emphasizing in all of this that Trump's approach here may be curious in the post-9/11 era, but it's not unprecedented. In fact, it harks back to Richard Nixon, who didn't take briefings and relied on national security adviser Henry Kissinger as his filter for it and other information. As Kessler noted in his fact check, many presidents have done it differently.
But 2012 and 2014 Donald Trump seemed to think it was very important in today's day and age for a president to take his briefings — and especially in person. He brought it up on no fewer than four different occasions.
Today, he's singing a very different tune.