How Trump's resistance to intel warnings about Russia led his team to brief him less

WION Web Team New York, New York, United States of America Jul 02, 2020, 03.37 PM(IST)

Donald Trump Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

According to a report in CNN, the President's briefers had one simple rule with Trump -- never lead with Russia.

United States President Donald Trump's resistance to intelligence warnings about Moscow led his national security team to brief him verbally less often on Russia-related threats to the US.

The White House has denied Trump was briefed about Russia placing bounties on US soldiers in Afghanistan, bringing his aversion to hearing negative analysis about Russia into renewed focus.

According to a report in CNN, the President's briefers had one simple rule with Trump -- never lead with Russia.

Early in his term, Trump's briefers discovered that when his oral briefing included intelligence related to Russia's malign activities against the United States, including evidence of its interference in US politics, he would often blow up at them. The CNN report further says Trump would demand to know why they kept focussing on Russia and often questioning the intelligence itself.

In response, his briefers reduced the amount of Russian-related intelligence they included in his oral briefings. They instead often placed it only in his written briefing book.

But they discovered over time that he often did not read the briefing book, leaving him unaware of crucial intelligence, including threats related to Russia and other parts of the world.

When asked about this, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe told CNN, "this is totally false" in a statement on Tuesday. Ratcliffe took the job in May.

National security advisor Robert O'Brien said Wednesday that the President was not briefed on the Russia bounty intelligence because it had not been corroborated.

Also read | Trump not briefed because Russia bounty reports uncorroborated: White House

Among his national security staff, this approach led to fears that the President was becoming less and less aware of the threat from Russia, even as the intelligence confirming the country's misbehaviour mounted.

The President's reluctance to hear intelligence about Russia may explain why the White House is currently denying that he was aware of intelligence. Former intelligence officials say that it's "inconceivable" that Trump would not have been briefed on the bounties, which the New York Times first reported on Friday evening.

Trump initially reacted to media reports of the bounty by tweeting on Sunday that "there have not been many attacks" on US troops as evidence that the reports may be "phony."

Also read | Trump says he wasn't briefed on Russia-Taliban bounty intelligence