A new book alleges that former president Donald Trump stopped receiving intelligence briefings in the final weeks of his presidency after his supporters broke into the US Capitol on 6 January in an attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.
The latest edition of John Helgerson’s Getting to Know The President, which was first published in 1996 and examines intelligence briefings given to presidents, examines Mr Trump’s relationship with his intelligence briefings and briefers.
“For the Intelligence Community, the Trump transition was far and away the most difficult in its historical experience with briefing new presidents,” Mr Helgerson, a retired CIA official, wrote in his book.
Mr Helgerson said that the only comparison to Mr Trump was to Richard Nixon and even that was an imperfect analog, since Mr Nixon essentially declined to work with the Intelligence Community and instead chose to receive briefings from National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger.
“Trump was like Nixon, suspicious and insecure about the intelligence process, but unlike Nixon in the way he reacted,” he wrote. “Rather than shut the IC out, Trump engaged with it, but attacked it publicly.”
Mr Helgerson cites an interview with Beth Sanner, who became Mr Trump’s briefer midway through his term in office and replaced Ted Gistaro.
“By then, the PDB schedule had settled in at two sessions a week with each session averaging 45 minutes,” he wrote. “Gistaro had adopted the practice of providing the president with a onepage outline of the topics he would cover at the session along with a set of graphics. Sanner continued that practice and found that the twice-a-week schedule provided the time to script a briefing with graphics that anchored what Sanner called ‘story-telling’ about the topics.”
Ms Sanner noted that even though Mr Trump did not read the Presidential Daily Briefing, he had read or saw other things that he would mention is his conversation.
In addition, Mr Trump received “deep dives” and interagency briefings. He also apparently enjoyed hearing from “guest analysts”. Similarly, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien’s arrival increased White House Staff’s interest in the Presidential Daily Briefing and Mr O’Brien and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows requested that Ms Sanner cover topics that their briefers shared with them.
Mr Trump also reported continued to receive his briefings despite his public criticism of the Intelligence Community, he continued to receive briefings as usual. This was even the case when an IC officer filed a whistleblower complaint about Mr Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, which ignited his first impeachment in 2019.
The briefings would also continue after the 2020 presidential election, which Mr Trump falsely claimed was stolen from him.
“When Sanner briefed the president before he went to Mar-a-Lago for the holidays, he commented that he would see her later,” Mr Helgerson wrote. “The briefings were to resume on 6 January but none were scheduled after the attack on the Capitol.”
Conversely, Vice President Mike Pence reportedly read his briefing six days a week.
“After Pence had been briefed, he would often join the president for his briefing and discussion,” the book reads. “This ensured that the two shared the same information and, perhaps most important, were both aware of, and had input into, any guidance they provided senior subordinates for policy formulation and operational purposes.”
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