The White House insisted that the information had not been verified or reliable, and said it had not reached Trump because there was no consensus within the intelligence community about its authenticity.
Trump is not known to have a full or regular PDB reading, which is well-known within the White House. Instead, he is orally informed two or three times a week by intelligence officials.
Without confirming whether the information was included in the written document – which she claimed would not “sit here and confirm or deny” – press secretary Kylie McNanny insisted that Trump read.
Asked why Trump doesn’t read the PDB, she said, “The president is reading and consuming oral information as well.”
“This president, I will tell you, is the most knowledgeable person on the planet when it comes to the threats we face,” McNani added, referring to the regular phone calls between Trump and his national security adviser Robert O’Brien. “He is constantly being told and informed about intelligence matters. But I will not allow the New York Times to dictate when we give very classified information and we do not give very classified information.”
Tuesday’s briefing was the most recent attempt to direct questions away from intelligence – and Trump’s apparent lack of response – and toward the leaks that allowed the information to emerge. The White House has defended Trump’s handling of this issue, but has not mentioned how he could punish Russia if the information is proven to be correct.
After Republican and Democratic lawmakers briefed the matter this week, McNaney said that Trump had also been updated. And she refused to announce it one day ago.
“The president has been briefed on what is regrettably in the public domain,” McNani said. “It has been seen, but that does not change the fact that there is no consensus on this intelligence that has not yet been verified.”
“The idea that one way or another he did not know or was not informed about, it is a failure to perform the duty if this is the case,” the former vice president said during an event at a high school in Wilmington, Delaware. “If he is seen and nothing is done about it, then this is a default in duty.”
Despite McEnany’s claims, several officials have told CNN that Trump is not an avid consumer of the PDB, a highly classified written document prepared before dawn by intelligence analysts that aims to provide the commander in chief with an update on global issues.
Even after intelligence analysts added more pictures and graphics to lure Trump’s learning style, the document was often unread, according to people familiar with the matter.
Instead, Trump prefers oral briefings several times a week. But even in those hearings, the participants described the president as occasionally distracting all his annoyances that day, which often contained a negative portion of news stories or newspaper articles, causing his intelligence briefings to fail.
A former senior administration official who was part of the team that provided Trump’s intelligence briefings said that the president usually relies on a graphical summary of current threats accompanied by an oral briefing, instead of reading the material collected by National Security aides.
“He handles things by discussing them,” the official said. “So the PDB presentation has been designed this way. Abstracts will always want to get key points. But it leads the discussion however it wants.”
The official said Trump often complained about the information provided to him at the briefings, preferring to offer potential solutions to his national security threats rather than just problems.
“He is usually disappointed with intelligence because he shows a problem but he does not provide an answer,” the official said.