Most presidents-to-be spend their precious few months before taking office by taking in top-secret intelligence briefings and learning as much as they can from the people tasked with keeping the US safe. Not Donald Trump, whose cabinet pageantry and victory tour has left little time for briefings.
Breaking with the tradition of receiving daily intelligence updates, the president-elect claimed that hearing such classified information would just get repetitive. “I get it when I need it,” he said on Fox News Sunday today. “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.”
(N.B. He’s only been elected for four years.)
Trump reportedly receives only one briefing a week, “the most highly classified and closely held document in the government,” according to a Dec. 9 Reuters report. Mike Pence, Trump’s vice-president-elect, is briefed at least six times per week.
In the same interview, the president-elect put himself even more at odds with the intelligence community he will soon inherit and be tasked with leading. Trump skewered a new report by US intelligence agencies, which claimed with “high confidence” that Russia interfered with the election by releasing Democratic National Committee emails through WikiLeaks.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” Trump said on Fox News. “I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it.”
The report states that Russian hackers breached both DNC and Republican National Committee servers, but only released DNC emails. If true, Russia is still in possession of potentially-damaging RNC emails. Intelligence agencies have also identified Russian officials they claim were involved with the hack to the White House and Congress, but no public action has been taken.
Top Republican voices, like Senate majority whip John Cornyn, have also joined Trump’s rebuttal of the reports.