Trump Again Skips Intel Briefing After Siding With Putin
President broke with DNI Coats standing alonside Russian strongman
For the second consecutive day since he broke with America’s spy agencies over Russia’s election meddling, President Donald Trump on Wednesday will not get an intelligence briefing.
The daily presidential guidance email sent out each evening by the White House initially featured only one item, an 11:30 a.m. Cabinet meeting. It was was updated Wednesday morning to include a 2 p.m. press briefing with Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Trump’s public schedule typically begins with a late-morning intelligence briefing in the Oval Office after his “executive time” in the White House residence, during which he tweets while watching cable news. He also uses that time to call lawmakers and friends, aides say.
The official guidance for Tuesday also did not include an intelligence briefing. Those sessions typically include senior intelligence leaders briefing Trump — and previous commanders in chief — on the top threats and developments from around the world, which can change in important ways from day to day.
The two briefing-free mornings come after Trump on Monday publicly broke with his director of national intelligence, former Indiana GOP Sen. Dan Coats, on foreign soil by siding with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s version of events over Coats and other senior intel officials.
“With that being said, all I can do is ask the question [of Putin]. My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it’s Russia,” Trump said. “I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
On Tuesday, more than 24 hours after the remark during a joint press conference, Trump somewhat walked back that remark, saying he would replace “would” with “wouldn’t.” But during much of the 45-minute press conference, Trump showed great deference and leniency to the Russian strongman; he has not tried to walk back those comments, doubling down Wednesday on his assertion the Putin summit was a “success.”
While the NATO meeting in Brussels was an acknowledged triumph, with billions of dollars more being put up by member countries at a faster pace, the meeting with Russia may prove to be, in the long run, an even greater success. Many positive things will come out of that meeting..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 18, 2018
Two White House officials had not responded to an inquiry about the lack of briefings on the president’s public schedule. But James Clapper, a former DNI, warned earlier this week that the Helsinki spectacle could lead intelligence leaders to withhold sensitive information from Trump.
Lawmakers from both parties have expressed frustration with Trump’s Helsinki remarks and Tuesday’s attempts to clean them up.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., on Wednesday said “it’s clear that [Trump] still believes President Putin over the consensus of [the] American intelligence community, and that puts America’s security gravely at risk.”