President Joe Biden said in a CBS interview published Friday that he believes former President Donald Trump cannot be trusted the secret intelligence briefings traditionally offered to former presidents and suggested that he discourage Trump might be given a briefing if he requested one on the "unpredictable behavior" of the former president.
If Biden were to deny Trump access to a requested news broadcast – which Biden is unilaterally authorized to do – it would be a grave violation of the convention allowing former presidents to request and receive the meetings. They are a benefit of the Post Presidency, which enables former presidents to advise sitting presidents on urgent national security issues and to engage in unofficial diplomacy when necessary.
When the CBS Evening News host Norah O'Donnell asked Biden if he thought Trump should get information, Biden replied, "I don't think so."
When asked to explain his position, Biden said, "Because of his erratic behavior, unrelated to the insurrection."
And when asked what he fears if Trump receives briefings, Biden said, "I'd rather not speculate out loud."
“I just think he doesn't need to have intelligence meetings. What is the value of giving him a message? What influence does he have, besides the fact that he could slip and say something? “Said Biden.
Biden's language suggested a propensity to block requests from Trump, but his comments were not final.
On Saturday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki released a statement clarifying Biden's remarks that the Trump administration would not necessarily be completely banned from intelligence and that any request from the former president for a briefing would be subject to evaluation.
"The president has expressed concern about former President Trump gaining access to sensitive information, but he also has deep confidence in his own intelligence team to decide how intelligence should be provided if former President Trump ever receives a briefing requests. Said the statement.
So far, Trump has reportedly not submitted any requests to inform the intelligence service. However, it is noteworthy that he could be prevented from receiving one. And should Biden face a request and decline it, he would have the backing of some top House Democrats and national security experts, like Trump's Assistant Director of National Intelligence, Susan Gordon, who have stated that they believe Trump's access to such information is a threat to the national security.
Overall, much like his upcoming Senate impeachment trial and his removal from social media platforms, Trump's post-presidency national security role is evolving into a norm that shakes the norm like his presidency.
Former presidents are given access to intelligence to advance national interests. Critics say Trump will do the opposite.
As David Sanger of the New York Times notes, access to classified intelligence, which contains the country's most sensitive intelligence reports and analysis on national security issues, is partly about showing courtesy to former presidents and partly about equipping them to a seated president help. should he or she need their advice on a complicated political decision.
"Traditionally, these briefings have provided former presidents with sufficient information to serve as confidential advisor to the current president if necessary, to provide perspective during an international crisis or before high-level negotiations with a foreign head of state," said David Priess, CIA officer, the George HW taught Bush for years after he left the White House, the Washington Post said.
Currently, these briefings are given regularly to Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Sanger reports.
Biden's language suggests that Trump could become an exception to the longstanding tradition. And that's because many Democrats and National Security experts have no confidence in his judgment and believe that he could use the information inappropriately.
Trump showed a disinterest in intelligence meetings while he was still in office. He reportedly did not read the President's daily briefing, preferring instead to have the oral briefing two to three times a week, which reduced the nuance of the information. He resisted disclosure of negative information about Russia. In a broader sense, he spent much of his presidency opposing the intelligence services, often describing them as part of a conspiracy against his presidency. In other words, there are questions about how Trump would handle information from institutions that he not only disregards but also regards as political opponents.
There are also competence issues. As Sanger explains, Trump was quick and easy to play with critical confidential information:
Shortly after receiving the F.B.I. Director James B. Comey told Trump in 2017 to the Russian Foreign Minister and the Russian Ambassador about a highly classified intelligence agency on the Islamic State that came from Israel. The Israelis were outraged.
Later in his presidency, Mr. Trump used his phone to take a photo of a classified satellite image showing an explosion on a missile launch pad in Iran. Some of the markers were eclipsed at first, but the revelation gave adversaries – they may have had anyway – information about the capabilities of American surveillance satellites.
A number of national security experts have raised concerns about the threat Trump could pose to America's most valuable national security secrets.
For example Gordon – who resigned as Trump's deputy chief director for national intelligence in 2019 – wrote in a January Washington Post statement that Trump as a private citizen should not receive information because of his interests in staying active in politics, vulnerable to international surveillance and pressure on his international business interests and questions on his general judgment.
“It is not clear that he understands the craft he has been exposed to, the reasons why the knowledge acquired must be protected from disclosure, or the intentions and skills of adversaries and competitors who use all means to serve their interests of promoting costs from us, ”she wrote.
Before Biden's inauguration, Democratic MP Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, recommended that Trump also be cut off.
"I believe there have been any number of intelligence partners around the world who likely withheld information from us because they didn't trust that the president would protect that information and protect its sources and methods," Schiff said. “And that makes us less sure. We saw this president politicize intelligence agencies, and that is another risk for the country. "
Douglas Wise, a former assistant director for the Defense Intelligence Agency, has pointed out Trump's debt as a unique point of vulnerability. Much of the former president's debt is held by financial institutions, but as Vox's Andrew Prokop has explained, Trump has also made hundreds of millions of dollars in purchases with money from unknown sources.
"One scary scenario is when the owners of Trump's debt, or actors like Putin who have the massive ability to pressure him without debt, lead Trump to make decisions that will benefit Russia in the final days of his administration and serve as a channel for Russia's disinformation Once absent or exchanged after leaving, ”Wise wrote to Just Security in November.
The decision to block Trump's access to top information – assuming Trump ever requests it – is the prerogative of the Biden administration. It doesn't require a former president to access it, and since Biden is unlikely to turn to Trump for advice on many national security and foreign policy issues, it wouldn't be a huge loss for him not to have Trump among his To have advisors.
In addition to weighing national security concerns, Biden must also weigh the pros and cons of the potential political setback in deciding to break this norm. However, after the Trump presidency, such a decision is unlikely to cause the shock it could have in another era.
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