WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump said Sunday he does not need daily intelligence briefings — an unprecedented rebuff of the U.S. intelligence apparatus — and dismissed as “ridiculous” a CIA conclusion that Russian email hacking was an effort to influence the election.
“I get it when I need it,” Trump said of the classified briefings designed to cover the most pressing national security issues. According to the CIA, every president since Harry S. Truman has gotten a daily digest of top intelligence, with Truman’s first briefing on Feb. 15, 1946.
Today, Truman’s creation is known as the President’s Daily Brief.
Trump’s comments came in an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace.
The matter of Russian hacking is taking on a new life after the Washington Post reported on Friday that the CIA concluded that Russia was trying to help Trump beat Hillary Clinton.
U.S. relations with Russia will be an even bigger issue in the opening chapter of the Trump presidency if he taps Rex Tillerson, the ExxonMobil chairman and CEO for Secretary of State. Tillerson has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and oversees a Russian/Exxon energy company based in Moscow.
A few days ago, I talked to a former presidential briefer who said Trump will likely present a challenge to brief, because he seems to have hardened views based on his gut.
Now the job will be even more challenging because Trump told Wallace he will take briefings only “when I need it.”
And after that, if anything changes, “Immediately call me. . . . I’m like a smart person” and “I don’t have to be told the same thing” every day,” Trump said.
So what we have here are two interrelated issues when it comes to Trump and intelligence: He starts his presidency skeptical about the information he will get — and remarkably unconcerned about receiving intelligence on a daily basis.
While this may not develop into a Trump war on the intelligence community, it’s not an optimal start.
THE PRESIDENTIAL DAILY BRIEFING
According to the CIA, there are 16 intelligence agencies and they all feed into the Daily Brief. The best-known intel outfits are the CIA and the FBI.
Trump complained about getting redundant information. He is the boss. He can order up a brief tailored any way he wants. But he should want something.
As the CIA says, “The style, format and presentation of the PDB are based on the preferences of the current president. . . . On Feb. 15, 2014 — 68 years after the first Daily Summary was published — the final hard copy edition of the PDB was printed. President Obama and other key national security policymakers now receive the PDB, six days a week, in a tablet format.”
That is supplemented by a daily briefing Obama gets in the Oval Office.
There are two questions on the table:
Did Russia hack emails? The CIA has said so for months. Emails from the Democratic National Committee surfaced before the Democratic National Convention. Later on, stolen emails from Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta were posted on WikiLeaks.
None of this was helpful to Clinton.
Did the Russians do it to help Trump?
This is what is new.
The Post reported that the CIA, with “high confidence,” concluded Russia “intervened” to help Trump win, “rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.”
Asked to react to the report, Trump told Wallace, “I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it. . . . We had a massive landslide victory, as you know, in the Electoral College.”
FACT CHECK: NO TRUMP LANDSLIDE
Trump talks about a “landslide” electoral vote to pump up his victory, given that Clinton beat him in the popular vote by more than 2.5 million ballots.
If there are no defectors, Trump should have 306 electoral votes to 232 for Clinton; 271 are needed to win. That’s not a landslide.
In 2012 President Barack Obama won with 332 votes; in 2008, with 365. Trump only does better than President George W. Bush did in 2004, with 286 votes and in 2000, with 271. President Bill Clinton had 379 votes in 1996; 370 in 1992. President George H.W. Bush had 426 votes in 1988.
Presidents Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson and Dwight Eisenhower all won more than 442 electoral votes. That’s a landslide.Tweets by @lynnsweet