Donald Trump skipped an intelligence briefing on Jan. 6, and he didn't take part in a classified briefing for the last month of his presidency.
The Central Intelligence Agency issued a regular update of its book describing how presidents are updated on national security matters, and it showed that Trump's abandonment of classified briefings caused concern among intelligence officials -- who worried that he was losing touch with reality, reported The Daily Beast.
"There was no certainty that he was getting objective, unbiased information in any other way,” said one source familiar with the matter. “You couldn’t trust that anybody around him was able to get that information to him in that period of time."
Trump took a holiday break from classified intelligence briefings in December 2020, and he never resumed those fundamental duties as he feasted on unhinged advice from rogue Justice Department attorneys and outside advisers who openly called for overturning lawful election results.
Presidents typically read their daily intelligence report and receive occasional briefings from a CIA officer, but Trump famously preferred in-person briefings that featured lots of pictures and frequent mentions of his own name, but the agency revealed that Trump spent only two days a week receiving sensitive information in sessions that lasted about 45 minutes.
"That came to a halt in late 2020, however, according to the CIA’s 'Getting to Know the President' book, written by a revered former inspector general at the agency, John Helgerson," The Daily Beast reported.
"Trump took a vacation break over the holidays when he traveled to Mar-a-Lago and told his briefer 'he would see her later,' Helgerson wrote," according to the report. "The president then went two weeks without that pivotal one-on-one update, unlike his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, who was known to read the daily report even while vacationing in Hawaii."
After abandoning his daily briefings, the former president instead huddled with conspiracy-minded advisers, pushed out disinformation about election fraud, promoted baseless legal challenges and pressured election officials to intervene in his loss, and he skipped the only briefing on his schedule in 2021 to exhort his supporters to march on the U.S. Capitol at the "Stop the Steal" rally that preceded the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“The briefings were to resume on 6 January but none were scheduled after the attack on the Capitol,” the CIA book says.
Although former vice president Mike Pence and other administration officials continued receiving classified briefings, intelligence veterans say it's alarming that a president would stop hearing the most up-to-date sensitive information for weeks at a time.
“Given how complicated the world is today, and given the kinds of decisions the president should be involved in in the national security arena, I’d be concerned that the president could find himself behind the curve,” said Larry Pfeiffer, a former CIA chief of staff who ran the White House’s Situation Room during the Obama administration. “Iran could have planned some foolish attack, or you could have intel members of the incoming administration acting against current U.S. foreign policy."