During a Fox News Sunday interview, President-elect Donald Trump acknowledged he’s not receiving daily intelligence briefings, but argued he doesn’t need them because he’s “a smart person.”
Trump said he gets briefings “when I need it” because “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. Could be eight years — but eight years. I don’t need that.”
Trump’s comments came two days after the Washington Post reported the CIA informed U.S. senators last week it is “quite clear” from a “growing body of intelligence from multiple sources” that Russia used cyberattacks to meddle in the presidential election, specifically to help Trump defeat Hillary Clinton. In a statement released in the wake of that news, Trump slammed the intelligence community, describing them as “the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.”
Right around the same time the Fox News interview was airing on Sunday morning, a bipartisan group of senators released a statement saying Americans should be alarmed by the CIA’s findings.
Trump, who has signaled a desire to forge closer ties with Russia and has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, has consistently denied the intelligence community’s conclusions about Russian meddling in the election. Just last week, he accused Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson of having political motivations for releasing a joint statement in October that warned about “the Russian Government [directing] the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations.”
Asked about that warning during a Time magazine interview, Trump said, “I don’t believe it. I don’t believe they interfered.” Trump reiterated that skepticism during the Fox News Sunday interview, characterizing the CIA’s findings about Russian meddling as “just another excuse” Democrats are using to explain Clinton’s loss.
Ignoring intelligence briefings can have real, disastrous consequences. In August 2001, President George W. Bush was handed a memo entitled, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” But after receiving that briefing, Bush downplayed the intelligence, reportedly telling the briefer, “All right. You’ve covered your ass, now.” Just over one month later, Bin Laden struck with the September 11 attacks.
Trump’s comments about intelligence briefings are also hypocritical, as he repeatedly criticized President Obama for skipping them. In September 2012, Trump tweeted, “Priorities — while fundraising and campaigning on our dime, Obama has skipped over 50% of his intel briefings.” In October 2014, Trump posted a similar tweet: “Obama has missed 58% of his intelligence briefings. But our president does make 100% of his fundraisers.”
Fact-checkers concluded that Trump’s criticisms were without merit. The Washington Post awarded “Three Pinocchios” to Trump’s claims about Obama allegedly skipping intelligence briefings.