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

Trump explains skipped intel briefings: ‘I’m, like, a smart person’

Updated
As recently as 2014, Donald Trump seemed deeply interested in President Obama and his daily intelligence briefing. In fact, the Republican, the year before launching his presidential campaign, seemed convinced that Obama wasn’t taking the national-security briefings as seriously as he should.

“Fact – Obama does not read his intelligence briefings nor does he get briefed in person by the CIA or DOD,” Trump complained, making up details that in no way reflected reality. Around the same time, Trump added, “Obama has missed 58% of his intelligence briefings” – which, again, was completely untrue.

With his whining in mind, there is some irony to the fact that Trump is now a president-elect who’s skipped nearly all of his intelligence briefings. In an interview that aired yesterday, Fox News’ Chris Wallace asked the Republican about his disinterest in receiving classified information from U.S. intelligence agencies. “Well, I get it when I need it,” the least experienced president-elect in the nation’s history explained.

It led to this extraordinary answer.
“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 and the same words every single day for the next eight years. It could be eight years – but eight years. I don’t need that.

“But I do say if something should change, let us know. Now, in the meantime, my generals are great, are being briefed. Mike Pence is being briefed, who is, by the way, one of my very good decisions. He’s 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 told me, you know, that doesn’t change necessarily. There might be times where it might change. I mean, there will be some very fluid situations. I’ll be there not every day but more than that.

“But I don’t need to be told, Chris, the same thing every day, every morning, same words. ‘Sir, nothing has changed. Let’s go over it again.’ I don’t need that.”
You’ve got to be be kidding me.

First, I’ve known some extraordinarily brilliant people, and not one of them ever said, “I’m, like, a smart person.”

Second, I’d feel a little better about Trump’s authoritarian streak if he avoided phrases such as “my generals.”

Third, Trump seems to think daily briefings are excessive when there are no dramatic differences from day to day, but the only way to know that for sure is to go to the daily briefings. Trump, on average, is making time for intelligence briefings about one-seventh of the time. How in the world would he know if these sessions are getting monotonous if Trump doesn’t like to show up for the information? Why criticize the content of briefings you haven’t bothered to attend?

Indeed, since Election Day, the number of intelligence briefings Trump has participated in (four) is smaller than the number of self-indulgent rallies the president-elect has hosted, celebrating himself (five). It’s tough to justify the fact that the latter total is larger than the former.

But even if we put all of these details aside, there’s a core problem that should make Americans very nervous: Donald J. Trump, lacking any qualifications for the office he’ll soon hold, will enter the White House profoundly ignorant about practically every aspect of his job. Common sense suggests the president-elect should be desperate to learn as much as possible during his transition process – especially about matters of national security – so he can be at least somewhat prepared on Jan. 20.

And therein lies the point: Trump offers a toxic combination of ignorance and indifference. He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, and Trump has no real interest in finding out.



Donald Trump and Intelligence

Trump explains skipped intel briefings: 'I'm, like, a smart person'

Updated