Last week, the Washington Post reported that President-elect Donald Trump had only received two classified intelligence briefings since election day — a number they said was “notably lower” than the amount received by his predecessors at this point in the transition period.
In an interview on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday, host Dana Bash asked Trump spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway about the allegation.
Conway did not deny the Post’s report, but instead stressed that in addition to the (limited) intelligence briefings he has received, the President-elect is “receiving information through his personal and on-the-phone meetings with over what’s now 41 world leaders.”
When further pressed by Bash about whether he was turning down the daily intelligence briefings that were offered to him, Conway avoided directly answering the question.
“I can’t discuss that publicly,” she said. “What I can tell you is that he is the most engaged individual I’ve ever met and brilliant to boot, and he is certainly availing himself of the information that is provided to him from a number of sources, including those intelligence briefings.”
According to the Post, Vice President-elect Mike Pence has set aside time “almost every day” for the classified intelligence briefings.
Presidents-elect usually use the intelligence briefings during the transition to immerse themselves in the national security issues facing the country and to become familiar with leaders around the globe. Notably, Trump is the first person elected to the U.S. presidency with zero government or military experience.
By ignoring his daily intelligence briefings, Trump has plenty of time to intermingle his presidential transition with his business interests. His daughter Ivanka, who runs the planning and development in the Trump Organization’s global hotel network, has sat in on meetings with multiple global leaders over the past few weeks. Trump has also held private meetings with business partners from India and the Philippines, and in a meeting with prominent British politician Nigel Farage, Trump pressed Farage and his associates to oppose offshore wind farms, which he has been fighting against for years due to the fact that they will disturb a view from his golf course in Scotland.
Trump, who heavily criticized Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign for her handling of classified information, has also been speaking with many world leaders without receiving State Department briefings, and there have been reports that many of those phone calls have taken place on unsecured phone lines in Trump Tower.
Amid new reports of Russia’s over-involvement in the election and the extent of Trump’s global conflicts of interest, his refusal to dedicate himself to daily intelligence briefings — and his openness to getting intelligence information from outside sources — is fueling concerns about how prepared Trump will be to run the government on January 20.
“The president-elect is missing out on a golden opportunity to learn about the national security threats and challenges facing our nation,” Michael Morell, former deputy CIA director, told the Post, “knowledge that would be extremely valuable to have when he takes the oath of office and when he steps into the Situation Room for the first time.”