Intelligence officials are increasingly frustrated that President Donald Trump seems unwilling or unable to pay attention to their briefings — which contain some of the world’s most closely guarded secrets.
The president continues to reject the findings of U.S. spy agencies, which current and former U.S. officials say creates gaps between Trump’s public statements and the facts presented to him during daily briefings, reported the Washington Post.
The CIA and other agencies devote enormous resources — and agents put their own lives at risk — to present accurate intelligence to Trump, although one official said the president’s inattention often makes “all of that a waste.”
“There is extraordinary frustration,” the U.S. intelligence official told the Post.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders denied the claims, saying the president did not ignore his daily briefings.
“The president receives regular briefings and takes counsel from his national security advisors, including the CIA director,” Sanders said in a statement. “Whether it was deciding to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, standing up to Iran’s malign activities, or a host of other actions, the president makes decisions based on a full spectrum of information.”
Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, said the president “remains an active and regular consumer of intelligence” and dismissed claims to the contrary as second-hand and false.
But U.S. officials who interact with the White House stood by their complaints, saying the president’s public statements often directly conflicted the intelligence presented to him.
They singled out his comments appearing to absolve Saudi crown price Mohammed bin Salman in the grisly murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and they are continuously perplexed by Trump’s relationship with Russia and its president.
One official said CIA employees were deeply shaken while watching Trump’s behavior during a news conference with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
“There was this gasp,” the official said. “You literally had people in panic mode watching it at Langley. On all floors. Just shock.”
The CIA and other intelligence services have streamlined the presidential daily briefing, which is now mostly bullet points and graphics, in hopes of catching and keeping Trump’s attention.
Analysts try to emphasize economic issues that might interest Trump and try to keep the briefings short, but they often leave the White House concerned.
“Either it doesn’t resonate or there is a lack of comprehension,” a U.S. official said. “You feel frustration and helplessness, in a way. What else can you do?”