Every single day, the president of the United States gets a highly classified roundup of the most sensitive intelligence matters affecting the U.S. and the world. Known as the Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB), it is an important part of the daily routine for most presidents. But not this president. The Washington Post reports Donald Trump received dozens of warnings about the emerging coronavirus threat throughout January and February from national intelligence officials in the daily briefings.
So, what went wrong? The Washington Post has this incredibly troubling scoop: “But the alarms appear to have failed to register with the president, who routinely skips reading the PDB and has at times shown little patience for even the oral summary he takes two or three times per week, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified material.”
Donald Trump failed to heed the warnings that a global pandemic was taking hold around the world and the virus was burrowing into the United States, spreading like wildfire. He failed to plan and take action to save American lives. He continued golfing. He continued holding rallies, desperate for the adulation of the MAGA crowds that he seems to need as badly as oxygen.
On Monday after his on-again, off-again press briefings, he laid blame for the nearly 56,000 American deaths (and climbing) on “somebody”, saying, “I would say they are as thrilled as they can be considering that the fact is that there has been so much unnecessary death in this country. It could have been stopped and it could have been stopped short, but somebody a long time ago, it seems, decided not to do it that way, and the whole world is suffering because of it.”
Gee, who could “somebody” be? Maybe somebody who got a daily presidential briefing that included the most severe warnings from the intelligence community about a massive loss of life, and instead chose to go golfing and attend a $50,000 party (paid for entirely by Swamp donors) in his private club for his grown ass son’s grown-ass girlfriend’s 51st birthday party? Out of sight and out of mind, the invisible killer was already sweeping through New York City and the West Coast as the Trump camp was doing conga lines at Mar-a-Lago with Lindsey Graham and Fox News hosts. The same weekend in March, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was declaring a state of emergency in the state of New York and the nation’s most populous city was on the verge of one of its darkest, deadliest chapters.
Perhaps Team Trump is still conducting focus groups to figure out who the “somebody” target will be. Hillary Clinton didn’t fail America, Trump did. And now that Barack Obama is stretching out and warming up on the sidelines, Trump doesn’t want to take aim at him. Unlike Trump, Obama intently read his PDBs—and you know he has the receipts.
Right from the start, Donald Trump showed impatience, and even a disdain for the detailed briefings, which he started receiving after the November 2016 election. Even before he put his hand on the Bible and swore the oath of office in January 2017, he made eyebrow-raising comments about whether he would or would not diligently read the PDBs, as his most recent predecessors did every day. In an interview with Chris Wallace at Fox News (where else?) in December 2016, he told Wallace he only viewed the briefing once a week. Because he’s a “smart person.”
TRUMP: You know, I get — first of all, these are very good people that are giving me the briefings. And I say, “If something should change from this point, immediately call me. I’m available on one-minute’s notice.” I don’t have to be told — you know, 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. Could be eight years — but eight years. I don’t need that. But I do say, “If something should change, let us know.”
President Harry S. Truman was the first to get daily intelligence briefings in the aftermath of World War II, but it was President John F. Kennedy who created the prototype for what is now known as Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB).
NPR did a short history of the PDBs and their importance in 2018. Top intelligence officials are assigned overnight duty to compile the reports so they are ready for review by 6 AM for agency heads. From there it heads to the president’s desk, where the PDB may be shared with other top administration officials.
David Priess, a former CIA analyst and intelligence briefer, gave a closer look at the PDBs and how presidents use them. Former President George W. Bush rightly got a lot of flak for not taking the August 6, 2001 presidential briefing more seriously. That briefing ominously warned that Osama bin Laden was “determined to strike” the United States. But Priess said GWB dedicated a big part of his day to the PDB and routinely discussed it at length with top aides and officials. Imagine if GWB received daily warnings for two months about Bin Laden’s plans and he failed to act?
Priess recalled an interview with former President Barack Obama where he said he’d be “flying blind” without it and that former President Bill Clinton once said “he got 90 percent of what he needed to make good decisions across a range of issues from the daily document.”
Now, with 56,000 American lives lost because of Donald Trump’s inaction, it seems clear that Donald Trump has been flying blind.
Stay safe, listen to the health care professionals, and do whatever you are able to get this incompetent, dangerous ignoramus out of the White House forever.