|Report: Donald Trump does not read daily intelligence briefings|
Donald Trump's intelligence briefings made repeated references to the threat of the novel coronavirus in January and February, according to a report yesterday at The Washington Post You read that correctly: The warnings were not just about a general viral outbreak, but specifically were about the novel coronavirus, which causes the deadly COVID-19 illness; and the warnings came in months when Trump routinely played down the threat. From the article by reporters Greg Miller and Ellen Nakashima:
U.S. intelligence agencies issued warnings about the novel coronavirus in more than a dozen classified briefings prepared for President Trump in January and February, months during which he continued to play down the threat, according to current and former U.S. officials.
The repeated warnings were conveyed in issues of the President’s Daily Brief, a sensitive report that is produced before dawn each day and designed to call the president’s attention to the most significant global developments and security threats.
For weeks, the PDB — as the report is known — traced the virus’s spread around the globe, made clear that China was suppressing information about the contagion’s transmissibility and lethal toll, and raised the prospect of dire political and economic consequences.
But the alarms appear to have failed to register with the president, who routinely skips reading the PDB and has at times shown little patience for even the oral summary he takes two or three times per week, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified material.
The WaPo account paints a picture of a president who is so disinterested in his job that he blows off the most basic tasks of governing -- and then lies to the public about information he should know:
The advisories being relayed by U.S. spy agencies were part of a broader collection of worrisome signals that came during a period now regarded by many public health officials and other experts as a squandered opportunity to contain the outbreak.
As of Monday, more than 55,000 people in the United States had died of covid-19.
The frequency with which the coronavirus was mentioned in the PDB has not been previously reported, and U.S. officials said it reflected a level of attention comparable to periods when analysts have been tracking active terrorism threats, overseas conflicts or other rapidly developing security issues.
A White House spokesman disputed the characterization that Trump was slow to respond to the virus threat. “President Trump rose to fight this crisis head-on by taking early, aggressive historic action to protect the health, wealth and well-being of the American people,” said spokesman Hogan Gidley. “We will get through this difficult time and defeat this virus because of his decisive leadership.”
The intelligence community's initial response seems to provide cover for a lazy and incompetent president -- one whose actions have led to the loss of tens of thousands of American lives:
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is responsible for the PDB. In response to questions about the repeated mentions of coronavirus, a DNI official said, “The detail of this is not true.” The official declined to explain or elaborate.
U.S. officials emphasized that the PDB references to the virus included comprehensive articles on aspects of the global outbreak, but also smaller digest items meant to keep Trump and senior administration officials updated on the course of the contagion. Versions of the PDB are also shared with Cabinet secretaries and other high-ranking U.S. officials.
One official said that by mid- to late January the coronavirus was being mentioned more frequently, either as one of the report’s core articles or in what is known as an “executive update,” and that it was almost certainly called to Trump’s attention orally.
The WaPo account shows Trump has been wildly dishonest with the American people -- about the most severe crisis in several generations:
The administration’s first major step to arrest the spread of the virus came in late January, when Trump restricted travel between the United States and China, where the virus is believed to have originated late last year.
But Trump spent much of February publicly playing down the threat while his administration failed to mobilize for a major outbreak by securing supplies of protective equipment, developing an effective diagnostic test and preparing plans to quarantine large portions of the population.
Trump insisted publicly on Feb. 26 that the number of cases “within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero,” and said the next day that “it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”
In reality, the virus was by then moving swiftly through communities across the United States, spreading virtually unchecked in New York City and other population centers until state governors began imposing sweeping lockdowns, requiring social distancing and all but closing huge sectors of the country’s economy.
As late as March 10, Trump said: “Just stay calm. It will go away.” The next day, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic.
By then, officials said, the warnings in the PDB and other intelligence reports had taken on the aspect of an insistent drumbeat. The first mention of the coronavirus in the PDB came at the beginning of January, focusing on what at that point were troubling signs of a new virus spreading through the Chinese city of Wuhan, and the Chinese government’s apparent efforts to conceal details of the outbreak.
In the ensuing weeks, U.S. intelligence agencies devoted additional resources and departments to tracking the spread of the coronavirus. At the CIA, the effort involved agency centers on China, Europe and Latin America, as well as departments devoted to transnational health threats, officials said.