President Donald Trump, for most of his presidency, has declined to read the President's Daily Brief (PDB), a document curated by U.S. intelligence agencies from around the world that details critical information, the Washington Post reported on Friday.
Forgoing a tradition the U.S.'s last seven presidents have engaged in, "Trump has opted to rely on an oral briefing of select intelligence issues in the Oval Office rather than getting the full written document delivered to review separately each day, according to three people familiar with his briefings," the Post said. "Reading the traditionally dense intelligence book is not Trump’s preferred 'style of learning,' according to a person with knowledge of the situation."
Yet, it's a revelation that is at odds with Trump's own words and his critiques of former president Barack Obama. In November, Trump told reporters that contrary to some reports that said otherwise, he doesn't watch much television at the White House because he's too busy "reading documents."
"But I don’t get to watch much television. Primarily because of documents. I’m reading documents. A lot," Trump said to a group of reporters. "I actually read much more — I read you people much more than I watch television."
Going further back to 2014, Trump once tweeted: "Fact--Obama does not read his intelligence briefings nor does he get briefed in person by the CIA or DOD. Too busy I guess!"
But other statements by the president highlight his preference for condensation when it comes to classified documents or briefings, a clear giveaway to his attention span, which has notoriously been described as short and impatient. "I like bullets or I like as little as possible," Trump told Axios a few days before taking office. "I don’t need, you know, 200-page reports on something that can be handled on a page."
Similarly, during the transition, Trump declined to receive a daily intelligence briefing from the CIA, a routine for presidents-elect. "You know, I’m, like, a smart person," Trump told Fox News anchor Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday" in December 2016. "I don’t have to be told the same thing and the same words every single day for the next eight years. It could be eight years — but eight years. I don’t need that." He continued, "But I don't need to be told, Chris, the same thing every day, every morning, same words. Sir, nothing has changed. Let's go over it again. I don't need that."
Intelligence experts caution that Trump's refusal to engage fully with the daily briefings, especially now as Commander-in-Chief, could affect his ability to react efficiently and effectively to crises.
"Something will be missed," Leon Panetta, a former CIA director and defense secretary for President Barack Obama, told the Post. "If for some reason his instincts on what should be done are not backed up by the intelligence because he hasn’t taken the time to read that intel, it increases the risk that he will make a mistake."
The PDB is made up of material from U.S. spies, foreign intelligence agencies, news sources and surveillance technology, and typically is extensive in length and context. But it can provide pressing information about the world's events and emerging threats. For example, it was revealed that President George W. Bush received warning in a PDB that Osama bin Laden was planning to strike the U.S. using airplanes, one month before the 9/11 attacks took place.
At first, reportedly, analysts tried to tailor the PDB with videos, photos, and graphics for Trump. But "according to people with knowledge of the situation," the Post reported, "after several months, Trump made clear he was not interested in reviewing a personal copy of the written intelligence report."
Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, denied the claims in a statement that “any notion that President Trump is not fully engaged in the PDB or does not read the briefing materials is pure fiction."