Donald Trump’s CIA intelligence briefer, Beth Sanner (pictured), made rare public comments on Monday as she spoke about the challenges she faces while delivering intelligence to the president
Donald Trump’s CIA intelligence briefer made rare public comments on Monday as she spoke about the challenges she faces while delivering intelligence to the president.
According to Politico, Beth Sanner, who is a senior official at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, spoke during an event hosted by the Intelligence & National Security Alliance.
During the briefing, she never referred to the president by name, but gave advice on dealing with a ‘customer’.
Sanner said it’s important to understand if this ‘is someone who reads? Someone who likes a story? Operates on visuals?’
‘You figure out before you go in what that person needs from you.’
She then said: ‘Be calm in your confidence, do your homework, and have that first briefing be where you hit the things they need from you.’
‘Watch your audience and pivot—when they’re done, you’re done. Ultimately, it’s about listening to be heard. You have to really hear people and then adjust yourself,’ she added.
Sanner’s mention of being able to ‘pivot’ during such briefings could explain why the president wasn’t verbally told about intelligence which claimed Russia was paying bounties to Taliban fighters to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Sanner never made any reference to the Russia controversy during her remarks on Monday.
But the White House has said that the reason he wasn’t briefed on the Russia bounty intelligence was that ‘a career CIA officer with more than 30 years of tenure’ had chosen not to tell him – presumably a reference to Sanner.
According to Politico, Trump’s resistance to hearing anything negative about Russia has forced his most senior officials to tiptoe around issues related to the country.
The New York Times reported in May that the president has a short attention span, rarely reads his daily brief except for graphs and photos he likes to look at, and tends to get his information from conservative news outlets.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president wasn’t angry about not being briefed because he has ‘great faith’ in his staff.
‘The president believes that and has great faith and Ambassador O’Brien and the others who made the decision that this shouldn’t be risen to his desk. It was a career CIA officer with more than 30 years of tenure who made the decision not to brief it up and the National Security Adviser agreed with that decision. She’s an excellent officer and does great work,’ she said Wednesday at her press briefing. ‘But this is unverified still at this very moment,’ she added.
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On Wednesday, Trump claimed that many in the intelligence community didn’t believe that the Russian government was paying a bounty on American troops in Afghanistan
On Wednesday, Trump claimed that many in the intelligence community didn’t believe that the Russian government was paying a bounty on American troops in Afghanistan.
He continued to claim he had never been briefed on the matter, saying it didn’t rise to the level of president, and called the report a ‘hoax’.
‘We never heard about it because intelligence never found it to be of that level, where it would rise to that,’ Trump told Fox Business in an interview.
‘When you bring something into a president and I see many, many things and I’m sure I don’t see many things that they don’t think rose to the occasion. This didn’t rise to the occasion.’
It was his second time that day referring to the matter as a ‘hoax’.
‘The Russia Bounty story is just another made up by Fake News tale that is told only to damage me and the Republican Party. The secret source probably does not even exist, just like the story itself. If the discredited @nytimes has a source, reveal it. Just another HOAX!,’ Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.
The White House has struggled to do damage control and contain the fallout from Friday’s report in The New York Times on the allegation against Russia. The administration has focused its counterattack on the argument that Trump was never briefed on the matter.
In his interview with Fox Business, Trump argued the intelligence community didn’t even buy it.
‘From what I hear, and I hear it pretty good, the intelligence people didn’t even – many of them didn’t believe it happened at all. I think it’s a hoax. I think it’s a hoax by the newspapers and the Democrats,’ Trump said.
But the president declined to detail what he would do if the report turned out to be true, simply saying: ‘If it did happen, the Russians would hear about it. And anybody else would hear about it that was involved.’
Officials in the administration have not disputed the existence of the intelligence report but have said it was not verified and that was why it was not presented to Trump.
National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien told ‘Fox & Friends’ on Wednesday morning the president wasn’t briefed because the allegation against Russia was ‘uncorroborated’.
But he also acknowledged the allegation was in Trump’s briefing material – but the briefer didn’t verbally tell the president about it.
‘The president’s career CIA briefer decided not to brief him because it was unverified intelligence and, by the way, she’s an outstanding officer and – in knowing all the facts I know – I certainly support her decision,’ he said.
Trump’s National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien told ‘Fox & Friends’ the president wasn’t briefed because the allegation was ‘uncorroborated’. O’Brien admitted the information was in the president’s daily briefing – it just wasn’t given to him orally by the CIA officer
O’Brien, after his appearance on Fox News, was asked by reporters at the White House if the information about Russia was in the president’s daily brief but he declined to say either way.
While Trump and his staff have argued he was not briefed on the matter, reports indicated the information was in the president’s daily brief – a compilation of intelligence reports given to the commander in chief and top administration officials.
Trump is said not to read it carefully and is, instead, orally briefed on the matters at hand.
O’Brien seems to confirm this with his account.
‘The person who decided early on whether the president should be briefed on this in the Oval … was a senior career civil servant, at a CIA officer,’ he told reporters at the White House.
‘And she made that decision because she didn’t have confidence in the intelligence that came up. We get raw intelligence and tactical intelligence, every day, hundreds of pieces of intelligence coming every day, thousands of pieces of intelligence come in a week. She made that call,’ he said.
McEnany said on Tuesday the president does read his briefing reports.
‘The President does read and he also consumes intelligence verbally. This president I will tell you is the most informed person on planet earth when it comes to the threats that we face,’ McEnany said.
As the administration has struggled to down play the shocking report, Democrats have piled onto the president, accusing him of a ‘dereliction of duty’ in the words of Joe Biden, the presumptive nominee who spoke in Wilmington on Tuesday.
‘If these allegations are true and he did nothing about any of this, then, in fact, I think the public should – unrelated to my running – conclude this man is not fit to be the president of the United States of America,’ Biden said of Trump.
Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee (left with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, right) said ‘there may be a reluctance to brief the president on things he doesn’t want to hear’
Hillary Clinton, Trump’s 2016 Democratic rival, criticized the president for not knowing about the intelligence.
‘Either he knew and chose to do nothing, or he didn’t know because he couldn’t be bothered to do his job,’ she wrote on Twitter.
Biden also slammed Trump for reports he does not read his daily briefing, noting he and President Barack Obama read theirs every day when they were in office.
‘The president brief was something I read every day as vice president. The president read it every day. I was briefed every morning before I got to the White House, and then again. The idea that somehow he didn’t know or isn’t being briefed, it’s a dereliction of duty if that’s the case. If he was briefed, and nothing was done about this, that is a dereliction of duty,’ Biden said of Trump.
Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said ‘there may be a reluctance to brief the president on things he doesn’t want to hear.’
Schiff made his comments after eight House Democrats received a briefing at the White House on Tuesday morning.
‘You briefed the president in the manner in which he or she receives information. If the president doesn’t read the briefs, it makes it doesn’t doesn’t work to give him written product, and not tell him what’s in it,’ Schiff said.
‘So, I don’t want to comment on this particular case but I just say it’s not a justification to say that the president should have read whatever materials he has. If he doesn’t read, he doesn’t read. They should know that by now,’ he noted.