Friday 20 April 2018

Trump 'missing golden opportunity' after shunning more national security briefings

Mike Pence
Mike Pence

Chris Graham in Washington

Donald Trump was reportedly given two classified intelligence briefings in the two weeks following his election, prompting claims the president-elect has a lot of "catching up to do" when it comes to national security.

The Republican received an initial briefing in the days after his election and a second session on Tuesday in New York, but has declined other opportunities to get up to speed on global developments and security threats, it was reported.

The two briefings is notably lower than his predecessors, according to current and former US officials speaking to the 'Washington Post'.

"Trump has a lot of catching up to do," said one senior US official, who receives the same daily briefing as President Barack Obama.

By contrast, vice-president-elect Mike Pence is reported to have received briefings almost every day.

Congressman Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a senior member of Mr Trump's transition team, said the president-elect's talks with world leaders since the election showed he was paying close attention to foreign policy and security matters.

"National security is Donald Trump's No 1 priority and I think he's taking it very seriously," Mr Nunes said.

A spokesman for the Director of National Intelligence, the office that compiles the daily presidential brief, declined to comment, the paper said.

"The last three presidents-elect used the intelligence briefings offered during the transition to literally study the national security issues that they would be facing and the world leaders with whom they would be interacting as president," said Michael Morell, a former deputy CIA director who supported Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

"The president-elect is missing out on a golden opportunity to learn about the national security threats and challenges facing our nation, 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."

As a candidate, Mr Trump voiced scepticism of the US intelligence community, and brushed off intelligence findings.

Prior to his first classified intelligence briefing - a privilege reserved for presidential candidates from the two main political parties - the Republican nominee told Fox News he had scant trust in the experts with whom he was scheduled to meet.

"Not so much from the people that have been doing it for our country. Look what's happened over the last 10 years. Look what's happened over the years. It's been catastrophic," he said.

Mr Trump is currently building his incoming administration.

Among his appointments was former military intelligence chief Michael Flynn as his national security adviser.

Lt Gen Flynn has proved a controversial choice after calling Islamism a "vicious cancer inside the body of 1.7 billion people" that has to be "excised".

Irish Independent

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