Donald Trump’s interest in intelligence briefings appears to be growing. Before Trump took office—when he was simply president-elect—he would often refuse updates from intelligence agencies, choosing instead to disparage them. Several of the man’s tweets accused intelligence officials of behaving as though they were in “Nazi Germany.” (Maybe they were simply anticipating the upcoming administration.)
Trump pointed to his personal intelligence as why he didn’t need to be constantly briefed, telling Fox News, “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.” It’s not particularly encouraging to think that the entire state of the world would remain utterly unchanged over the course of nearly a decade per Trump’s estimation, but thankfully he seems to have changed his mind somewhat.
Since Trump took office, he’s become more and more interested in receiving his top-secret intelligence briefings. Trump now gets a verbal briefing every single day, often taking longer than the appointed time to ask questions and spiral off into tangents. His voracious consumption of important information is a surprising turn for the president, and several intelligence workers have praised his new habits. Daniel Coats—director of national intelligence—and CIA Director Mike Pompeo have both claimed the president’s changing views of intelligence are encouraging. He still likes the news itself to be fairly surface-level and has a proclivity towards “killer graphics,” per Pompeo.
Of course, through it all,Trump continues to disparage the intelligence community through incessant tweets. HIs relationship with the majority of intelligence workers remains fairly poor.
The problem is that, despite all of the briefings, it’s looking like Trump may be missing some of the nuance or even just the general point of the intelligence. Recently, Trump suggested that maybe China had been responsible for election meddling and not Russia, despite virtually zero evidence to support that position. Additional slip-ups like revealing classified information about Israel operatives to Russian ambassadors point to a man who isn’t quite sure what to do after hearing his briefings. Whether he’s forgetting the point of the information or simply choosing to interpret it in his own way, it’s disconcerting, considering how he’s handled the information so far.
Clearly, we should want our president to be well-informed about global affairs, but if he doesn’t know how to apply the information—or worse, deliberately misinterprets or leaks what he’s learned—should the intelligence community either do more to ensure Trump understands the information (i.e. graphics that are even more “killer”), or should they be more selective in what they reveal to a commander-in-chief with a propensity for leaks?