Trump's weekly intelligence briefings: How unusual for a president-elect?

The president-elect's decision breaks from the tradition set by recent predecessors, but is not out of step with his broader, unorthodox run-up to the presidency.

Charlie Neibergall/AP
President-elect Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a rally in Des Moines, Iowa, on Thursday.

President-elect Donald Trump is only taking around one presidential intelligence briefing per week, according to intelligence officials, despite most recent former presidents opting to receive them regularly.

The Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) is the nation’s most heavily classified and tightly circulated document. Although they are not compulsory, recent presidents-elect have generally welcomed them.

A Trump transition staffer said Mr. Trump has received “routine” PDBs and a few other special briefings, while Vice-President-elect Mike Pence, who is also entitled to receive the PDB, has been doing so about six days a week, according to Reuters.

The PDB is the same one President Obama gets and contains secrets including information about US espionage sources and covert offshore operations.

While unorthodox, Trump’s break with tradition is not out of step with many other aspects of his run-up to the presidency, which has included a very frequent and public revolving door of potential cabinet appointments, and his use of Twitter to stay in control of his message by bypassing the traditional media.

“He tweets with abandon, going over the heads of the mainstream media and straight to his public; and he says he’ll keep doing so after taking office,” The Christian Science Monitor’s Linda Feldmann wrote recently. “He has conducted his Cabinet search out in the open, like a casting call for ‘The Apprentice,’ as applicants (and well-wishers) come and go through the lobby of Trump Tower.”

Ms. Feldmann added that while Trump has tempered his unusual approach with high-level appointments pleasing to the Republican establishment, such as national party chairman Reince Priebus as his chief of staff and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley as United Nations ambassador, his “maverick, populist side remains supremely important.”

Historically, Trump and Mr. Pence’s predecessors received "daily or near-daily intelligence briefings" between their election and Inauguration day, former Central Intelligence Agency briefer David Priess, the author of a book about PDBs, told Reuters.

But Mr. Priess added that some presidents-elect made variations. Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan did not start getting their daily briefings until late November, while the delayed election result in the 2000 run-off between George W. Bush and Al Gore meant Mr. Bush did not start receiving his until December. After his first election, Richard Nixon turned down face-to-face briefings, instead having paper PDBs delivered to his office. A "stack" of them were later returned unopened to the CIA.

Representatives of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence deliver PDBs to presidents and their closest aides.

Trump's apparently casual approach to the briefings drew criticism from Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

"It is deeply disturbing that the president-elect has time for rallies but not for regular intelligence briefings," Mr. Schiff said.

This report contains material from Reuters.

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