Why Don­ald Trump needs in­tel­li­gence brief­ings

The pres­i­dent-elect’s em­brace of Rus­sia comes at a steep price

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Don­ald Lam­bro Don­ald Lam­bro is a syn­di­cated colum­nist and con­trib­u­tor to The Wash­ing­ton Times.

Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump doesn’t seem to like do­ing some of the work that is a crit­i­cal part of the most pow­er­ful govern­ment job in the free world.

The for­mer tele­vi­sion star, who has made bil­lions in the real es­tate busi­ness, and has sat through many busi­ness meet­ings over his ca­reer, has made it abun­dantly clear he doesn’t think sit­ting through the daily in­tel­li­gence brief­ings is a good use of his time, no mat­ter what his top na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vis­ers tell him.

Pres­i­dents rou­tinely re­ceive five to six brief­ings a week, which vice pres­i­dent-elect Mike Pence is du­ti­fully do­ing, but not Mr. Trump who says he wants only one brief­ing a week, or pos­si­bly one or two more if nec­es­sary.

The man who built a busi­ness em­pire by wheel­ing and deal­ing on a global scale is said to ab­hor read­ing brief­ing papers, and of­ten told his for­mer cam­paign ad­vis­ers to boil down any­thing he needs to read to a sin­gle page.

He’s not known for read­ing books, ei­ther, which is why his cam­paign speeches lacked depth, de­tail or anal­y­sis. Ev­ery tar­get he went af­ter was al­ways a “dis­as­ter,” but he rarely pro­vided a rea­soned ex­pla­na­tion of how he would fix it.

Well, some­times cer­tain na­tional se­cu­rity is­sues re­quire a fuller, deeper pre­sen­ta­tion, es­pe­cially if they threaten our na­tional se­cu­rity or, say, Rus­sia’s cy­ber­war on the in­tegrity of our elec­tions.

A num­ber of for­mer, high-rank­ing de­fense of­fi­cials are tak­ing Mr. Trump to task for his re­sis­tance to the te­dious but nec­es­sary work that comes with the job.

One of his chief crit­ics is Leon Panetta, the for­mer head of the CIA and sec­re­tary of De­fense in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“I have seen pres­i­dents who have asked ques­tions about whether the in­tel­li­gence is ver­i­fi­able, what are the sources of that in­tel­li­gence, but I have never seen a pres­i­dent who said, ‘I don’t want that stuff,” Mr. Panetta said this week at a na­tional se­cu­rity con­fer­ence in Dubai.

Mr. Trump, who thinks he knows ev­ery­thing, told Fox News Sun­day that he of­ten found the brief­ings repet­i­tive and that he al­ready knew about the threats the U.S. faces from its ad­ver­saries.

“I get it when I need it,” he said. “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.”

He not only doesn’t think he needs daily in­tel­li­gence brief­ings, he doesn’t think the CIA or the larger in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity can be trusted. “These are same peo­ple that said Sad­dam Hus­sein had weapons of mass de­struc­tion,” he said in a state­ment put out by his transition team.

Putting down the na­tion’s in­tel­li­gence ser­vices, be­fore you are sworn into of­fice, many of whom have given their lives for their coun­try, is no way to start a pres­i­dency.

Mr. Trump doesn’t want his in­tel­li­gence ad­vis­ers telling him things that he dis­misses out of hand, es­pe­cially about the kind of cy­ber-war­fare skull­dug­gery that Rus­sia’s Vladimir Putin, a for­mer KGB agent in the Krem­lin, is con­niv­ing to use against our coun­try and its elec­tions.

“When it comes to Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in our last cam­paign, 17 in­tel­li­gence agen­cies agree that Rus­sia is in­volved in that ef­fort,” Mr. Panetta said, ac­cord­ing to the Reuters news agency.

“I think the pres­i­dent would do well to say we ought to find out what Rus­sia’s role was, we ought to in­ves­ti­gate it and en­sure that it never hap­pens again,” he added.

But Mr. Trump flatly re­jects the find­ings in the in­tel­li­gence reports.

“I think it’s ridicu­lous,” he said Sun­day. “I think it’s just an­other ex­cuse. I don’t be­lieve it. …No, I don’t be­lieve it at all.”

Why doesn’t he be­lieve what in­tel­li­gence in­ves­ti­ga­tions have un­cov­ered about Rus­sia’s role in the cy­ber-break in at the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee, and other chaos-pro­duc­ing ac­tiv­i­ties aimed at last month’s elec­tion?

Be­cause Mr. Putin is his friend and he will­ingly swal­lows all his de­nials, hook, line and sinker.

Through­out this elec­tion, Mr. Trump has re­peat­edly stated his un­re­served ad­mi­ra­tion for Mr. Putin. “The man has very strong con­trol over a coun­try,” he has said. He has been a leader “far more than our pres­i­dent has been a leader.”

It is also com­mon knowl­edge that Mr. Trump has done a lot of busi­ness in Rus­sia that has en­riched Trump, Inc.

His son Don­ald Trump, Jr. once said in 2008 that the “Rus­sians make up a pretty dis­pro­por­tion­ate cross-sec­tion of a lot of our as­sets. We see a lot of money pour­ing in from Rus­sia.”

One can also see why Mr. Trump has picked Rex Tiller­son, the ExxonMo­bil CEO, to be his sec­re­tary of State, the man who the Wall Street Jour­nal has said is close to Mr. Putin, who has awarded him Rus­sia’s Or­der of Friend­ship.

But is Mr. Putin the kind of world leader Amer­ica wants to em­brace, as Mr. Trump seems so will­ing to do?

This is the guy who in­vaded the Crimean Penin­sula in Ukraine and an­nexed it, then sent Rus­sian troops into East­ern Ukraine where they threaten to seize con­trol of that sov­er­eign coun­try.

Mr. Trump has not ut­tered a word of com­plaint about any of this. In­deed, ear­lier this year on ABC’s “This Week” he in­sisted, falsely, that Rus­sian troops were not in Ukraine, and were not go­ing to be there in the fu­ture.

Clearly, no amount of in­tel­li­gence brief­ings is go­ing to dis­abuse Mr. Trump of that lu­di­crous no­tion.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY PAUL TONG

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