It’s now well-known that President Donald Trump allegedly revealed classified information to Russian officials during an unorthodox Oval Office meeting a few weeks ago. The underlying message behind that story, according to a new Washington Post report, is about how the president consumes the intelligence that comes across his desk.
According to the Post, Trump’s intelligence briefings “often run past their scheduled time, stretching for 30 or 45 minutes, prompting Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, to pop into the Oval Office to cut off the discussion: ‘Mr. President, we’ve got people backing up outside.'”
It’s not just the length, but also the content of the Trump’s briefings that appear to be cause for concern. Prior reports reveal that the president prefers the use of “visual aides” like infographics and photos in his briefings, and this latest Post report reinforces that.
“As they huddle around the desk, Trump likes to pore over visuals — maps, charts, pictures and videos, as well as “killer graphics,” as CIA Director Mike Pompeo phrased it,” Post reporters Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker wrote. This tendency towards visuals is, according to their sources, due to Trump’s career in real estate that required him to regularly view blueprints.
Despite efforts by White House staff to make intelligence more legible for the president, “there are signs that the president may not be retaining all the intelligence he is presented, fully absorbing its nuance, or respecting the sensitivities of the information and how it was gathered,” Parker and Rucker wrote.
The president’s seeming mishandling of the classified intelligence he gave to the Russians, according to the Post, provides an uneasy “portrait of Trump as a consumer of the nation’s secrets”.
During his presidential transition, Trump infamously said he only needed weekly briefings, and reports from the transition noted that he would often refuse briefings presented to him.
“Pompeo and [Director of National Intelligence Dan] Coats are doing their best to give him the most accurate daily briefing, but my sense is in the rank-and-file, they are very worried about how do you deal with him and about sharing with him sensitive material,” former Assistant CIA Director Mark Lowenthal told the Post. “This is the result of his behavior.”