President Donald Trump’s staff in the White House made a request in January of the intelligence officials who provide the president with his daily briefings. They asked them to cut down on the “words” in the briefing, opting instead for pictures.
From The Washington Post:
When President Trump began receiving his intelligence briefings in January, his team made a request: The president, they said, was a visual and auditory learner. Would the briefers please cut down on the number of words in the daily briefing book and instead use more graphics and pictures?
Similarly, after Trump entered office, his staff took President Barack Obama’s Syria contingency plans and broke the intelligence down into more-digestible bites, complete with photos, according to current and former U.S. officials with knowledge of the request.
Because of this, the graphic and heartbreaking pictures of the child victims of Tuesday’s chemical attack in Idlib, Syria were front-and-center in the briefing book this week. It’s possible that these images are what prompted the president to swing 180 degrees from “America First” to launching a missile strike against Assad (and, by extension, Putin).
Still, the idea that the president can’t handle lengthy written reports has been revealed in the past, in part by the president himself.
As he told Axios in January, right before taking offie:
Trump said he likes his briefings short, ideally one-page if it’s in writing. “I like bullets or I like as little as possible. I don’t need, you know, 200-page reports on something that can be handled on a page. That I can tell you.”
This presented something of a problem for White House staffers meant to get the amateur Commander-in-Chief up-to-speed on pressing issues of the day. The Obama administration left behind 1,000 pages of classified reports on everything from the campaign against the so-called Islamic State to North Korea’s nuclear program. Days before the Inauguration, The New York Times reported that no one in the Obama administration was sure that anyone from the incoming administration had even read them.
In February, a memo leaked to Mother Jones confirmed this reading of how the briefings were to be conducted in the age of Trump.
The memo sent to certain analysts within the intelligence community notes that the commander in chief’s daily briefing book typically contains reports on only three topics, typically no more than one page each. According to the guidance, Trump’s PDB also includes space for a short update, presumably on matters brought up in previous briefs. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the process of producing the PDB, declined to comment on the memo….
The guidance states that analysts should only include facts that support their analyses, and it explains that topics presented in the PDB will not be covered from different perspectives in separate briefings. That means that dissenting or conflicting views might not be presented to Trump.
This is a stark departure from the methods of President Trump’s most recent predecessors. Both Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama received their briefings in writing, asked follow-up questions (also in writing), and asked for dissenting views when appropriate. President George W. Bush favored oral briefings, but they were much more extensive than those described by Trump aides.
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