President Barack Obama says any president who shuns daily intelligence briefings would be “flying blind” on national security matters, a stiff push-back against Donald Trump’s suggestion that that he doesn’t need daily read-ins to fulfill his campaign pledge to “make America safe again.”
“I think the president-elect may say one thing and do another once he’s here” in the White House,” Obama said late Monday on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.”
Intelligence agencies, Obama said, “are not perfect, they would be the first to acknowledge that. If you’re not getting their perspective, their detailed perspective, then you are flying blind.”
Trump said on “Fox News Sunday” he’s not interested in daily intelligence briefings unless developments have changed enough to merit his attention. Trump campaigned heavily on making national security his priority, crafting one widely seen ad around the phrasing that he’ll “make America safe again.” He wrapped several campaign proposals in the national security theme, including a temporary ban on Muslim immigration and immediate deportation of millions of people in the country illegally.
Asked whether he’s rejecting valuable intelligence, Trump was defiant.
“I get it when I need it,” he said of the top-secret briefings sessions, generally designed to present facts for the president to make decisions on when something’s changed and what, if any, action should be taken.
“I’m, like, a smart person,” Trump continued. “I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years.”
The remarks sent Trump allies, such as incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus Tuesday, insisting that the president-elect respects intelligence analysts.
In his Monday night appearance, Obama said the U.S. intelligence agencies are stocked with “extraordinary, hard-working and patriotic and knowledgeable experts.”
“It doesn’t matter how smart you are,” Obama said. “You have to make the best information possible to make the best decisions possible.”
Obama also commented on the burgeoning controversy surrounding the CIA’s conclusion that Russia was engaged in computer hacking aimed at interfering with the U.S. election process and helping Trump in his campaign against Democrat Hillary Clinton. A congressional investigation is in the works, and Obama has ordered a wide-ranging review of the hacking situation.
The aim, Obama told “The Daily Show,” was to ensure that “the public and our elected representatives, going forward, can find ways to prevent this kind of interference from having an effect on the elections in the future.”
“This was not a secret running up to the election,” he added. “The president-elect in some of his political events specifically said to the Russians, hack Hillary’s emails so we can finally find out what’s going on and confirm our conspiracy theories.”