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Trump Skips Written Intelligence Reports, Expects Verbal Briefings

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

"I don’t need, you know, 200-page reports on something that can be handled on a page,” Trump said before taking office.

President Donald Trump's disdain for reading is well known at this point in history, but new reports have emerged that the president truly does not look favorably upon written daily intelligence briefings.

According to the Washington Post, Trump prefers to have select intelligence issues conveyed to him orally rather than read a full written document each day.

Reading the traditionally dense intelligence book is not Trump’s preferred “style of learning,” according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

The arrangement underscores Trump’s impatience with exhaustive classified documents that go to the commander in chief — material that he has said he prefers condensed as much as possible. But by not reading the daily briefing, the president could hamper his ability to respond to crises in the most effective manner, intelligence experts warned.

Not long after Trump took office, reports surfaced that his verbal briefings were supplemented with photos and graphics, as staff attempted to adapt intelligence session strategies to a president with a short attention span and distaste for reading.

After several months, Trump made clear he was not interested in reviewing a personal copy of the written intelligence report known as the PDB, a highly classified summary prepared before dawn to provide the president with the best update on the world’s events, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

Administration officials defended Trump’s reliance on oral sessions and said he gets full intelligence briefings,noting that presidents have historically sought to receive the information in different ways.

Not only does Trump not read the full briefings, but the president's public schedule also indicates he only receives the condensed oral version every two or three days on average.

Mark Lowenthal, a career intelligence officer who served as a CIA assistant director from 2002 to 2005, said Trump does not have to read the PDB if he is getting an extensive oral briefing. He warned, however, that a short briefing on a few select items would leave the president ill-equipped for major decisions over the long term.

“Then he’s really not getting a full intelligence briefing,” Lowenthal said. “You need to get immersed in a story over its entire course. You can’t just jump into an issue and come up to speed on the actors and the implications. The odds are pretty good that something will arise later on for which he has no intelligence basis for helping him work through it.”

The current state of Trump's intelligence briefings is no surprise, considering that prior to taking office he said he prefers "bullets or as a little as possible" rather than a longer report.

“You know, I’m, like, a smart person,” Trump said in a “Fox News Sunday” interview in December 2016. “I don’t have to be told the same thing and the same words every single day for the next eight years. It could be eight years — but eight years. I don’t need that.”