A president without daily intelligence briefings would be "flying blind," said President Obama on "The Daily Show" Monday evening.
The president's remarks on the Comedy Central talk show came one day after President-elect Donald Trump told "Fox News Sunday" that he is not interested in getting the daily briefings once he is inaugurated, straying from the traditional practice of most recent presidents.
"I'm, like, a smart person. I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years," Mr. Trump said, explaining that he would only get briefed "when I need it," or when there is a significant "change."
The President's Daily Brief, the nation’s most heavily classified and tightly circulated document, is not mandatory reading for the United States' commander-in-chief, though most past presidents have elected to receive it daily, as Josh Kenworthy reported for The Christian Science Monitor last week:
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.
Currently, the president-elect is taking about one presidential intelligence briefing per week, intelligence officials have said. Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who also has access to the President's Daily Brief, has been receiving it and other briefings about six days a week, according to Reuters.
"In the meantime, my generals are great – are being briefed," Trump said on "Fox News Sunday." "And Mike Pence is being briefed, who is, by the way, one of my very good decisions. And they're being briefed. And I'm being briefed also. But if they're going to come in and tell me the exact same thing that they tell me – you know, it doesn't change, necessarily."
Speaking on "The Daily Show," Obama said that while the US intelligence agencies "are not perfect," they are made up of "extraordinary, hard-working and patriotic and knowledgeable experts."
"It doesn’t matter how smart you are," he said. "You have to make the best information possible to make the best decisions possible."
While the president-elect says now that he doesn't want daily briefings, that could change once he is inaugurated and thrust into the daily grind of the presidency, Barry Pavel, the director of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, suggested to NPR.
"I would be interested to see how that posture evolves over time, because once you're in that chair and in the office, I would expect that tempo to increase significantly," Mr. Pavel said.