Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump talks with press on Sept. 5, 2016, aboard his campaign plane, while flying over Ohio, as Vice presidential candidate Gov. Mike Pence looks on.
Photo by Evan Vucci/AP

Offered daily intelligence briefings, Trump takes a pass

Shortly after the election, President Obama approved daily intelligence briefings for Donald Trump and Mike Pence. It was obviously the responsible thing to do: the Republican ticket will soon be sworn into office, and Obama wants them to be up to speed so they’re prepared the moment they’re in positions of responsibility.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 11/23/16, 9:31 PM ET

Trump declining daily intelligence briefs

Rachel Maddow reports that NBC News has confirmed that Donald Trump has only had two intelligence briefs since the election.
Rachel Maddow reports that NBC News has confirmed that Donald Trump has only had two intelligence briefs since the election.
But as Rachel noted on the show the other day, there’s a problem: Trump apparently doesn’t want the information. NBC News reported:
President-elect Donald Trump has had only two intelligence briefings since he won the election more than two weeks ago, intelligence sources told NBC News on Wednesday – a much lower number than his predecessors had and fewer even than Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
A Washington Post report added that a team of intelligence analysts “has been prepared to deliver daily briefings on global developments and security threats to Trump in the two weeks since he won,” but he’s passed on all but two meetings. Pence, on the other hand, “has set aside time for intelligence briefings almost every day since the election.”

When these reports first surfaced, I thought it was some kind of joke, or at least the result of some confusion, but it’s actually quite real: Trump has been offered daily access to sensitive and classified information from around the globe, and the president-elect, at least for now, isn’t interested.

Asked about this yesterday on CNN, Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager and spokesperson, said she “can’t discuss” how many briefings the president-elect has turned down, but she insisted that Trump is “engaged” and “brilliant.” Conway added that Trump is “availing himself of the information as provided to him from a number of sources.”

I’m not entirely sure what that means, but it warrants some follow-up. What other “sources” might Trump be listening to? If U.S. intelligence agencies aren’t enough for the president-elect, who else, specifically, is providing him with “information”?

This isn’t entirely new, by the way. After Trump won the Republican nomination, and he was scheduled to start receiving intelligence briefings, he was asked about whether he’d trust the information he receives. “Not so much from the people that have been doing it for our country,” the Republican said at the time, adding, in reference to U.S. intelligence agencies, “I won’t use them because they’ve made such bad decisions.”

Just two weeks ahead of Election Day, Trump was receiving information from U.S. officials about security matters, which he chose not to believe.

And now we’re learning that the president-elect, in most instances since the election, isn’t even bothering to receive the information put together for his benefit.

It’s hard not to feel uncomfortable with these circumstances. The least experienced, least knowledgeable presidential candidate in American history – prone to believe weird conspiracy theories and disregard facts he finds inconvenient – is preparing to take office soon, and at this point, he seems passively indifferent towards security information.

The fact that Trump has no idea what he’s doing is alarming. The fact that Trump doesn’t seem eager to learn is almost certainly worse.