Himalaya: Listen. Learn. Grow.

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每日英語跟讀 Ep.888: For Spy Agencies, Briefing Trump Is a Test of Holding His Attention

President Donald Trump has blamed many others for his administration's flawed response to the coronavirus: China, governors, the Obama administration, the World Health Organization. In recent weeks, he has also faulted the information he received from an obscure analyst who delivers his intelligence briefings.


Trump has insisted that the intelligence agencies gave him inadequate warnings about the threat of the virus, describing it as “not a big deal.” Intelligence officials have publicly backed him, acknowledging that Beth Sanner, the analyst who regularly briefs the president, underplayed the dangers when she first mentioned the virus to him Jan. 23.


But in blaming Sanner, a CIA analyst with three decades of experience, Trump ignored a host of warnings he received around that time from higher-ranking officials, epidemiologists, scientists, biodefense officials, other national security aides and the news media about the virus's growing threat. Trump's own health secretary had alerted him five days earlier to the potential seriousness of the virus.


Trump is particularly difficult to brief on critical national security matters, according to interviews with 10 current and former intelligence officials familiar with his intelligence briefings.


The president veers off on tangents, and getting him back on topic is difficult, they said. He has a short attention span and rarely, if ever, reads intelligence reports, relying instead on conservative media and his friends for information.


Trump rarely absorbs information that he disagrees with or that runs counter to his worldview, the officials said. Briefing him has been so great a challenge compared with his predecessors that the intelligence agencies have hired outside consultants to study how better to present information to him.


“How do you know?” is Trump's common refrain during his 30- to 50-minute briefings two or three times a week. He counters with his own statistics on issues where he has strong views, like trade or NATO. Directly challenging him, even when his numbers are wrong, appears to erode Trump’s trust, according to former officials, and ultimately he stops listening.


Intelligence briefings are among the most important entries on a president's calendar. The briefer, always a top CIA analyst, delivers the latest secrets and best insights from the 17 intelligence agencies. The oral briefings to Trump are based on the President's Daily Brief, the crown jewels of intelligence reports, which draws from spywork to make sophisticated analytic predictions about long-standing adversaries, unfolding plots and emerging crises around the world.


But getting Trump to remember information, even if he seems to be listening, can be all but impossible, especially if it runs counter to his worldview, former officials said.


Source article: https://paper.udn.com/udnpaper/POH0067/353904/web/