Trump: “I’m like a smart person”; Doesn’t Need Daily Intel Briefings

Good thing the world is a static, simple place...

Donald Trump ShrugOn today’s Fox News Sunday (Exclusive: Donald Trump on Cabinet picks, transition process), the President-elect explains that he really doesn’t need to get the intel  briefing daily, since he is “smart” and it is really just ” the same thing and the same words every single day”:

WALLACE:  I just want to ask you about your skepticism about the intelligence community.  You are getting the presidential daily brief —

TRUMP:  Yes.

WALLACE:  – only once a week.

TRUMP:  Well, I get it when I need it.

WALLACE:  But is there some skepticism?

TRUMP:  First of all, these are very good people that are giving me the briefings.  If something should change from this point, immediately call me.  I’m available on one minute’s notice.

I don’t have to be told — you know, I’m like a smart person.  I don’t have to be told the same thing and the same words every single day for the next eight years.  It could be eight years — but eight years.  I don’t need that.

But I do say if something should change, let us know.  Now, in the meantime, my generals are great, are being briefed.  Mike Pence is being briefed, who is, by the way, one of my very good decisions.  He’s terrific.  And they’re being briefed.  And I’m being briefed also.

But if they’re going to come in and tell me the exact same thing that they told me, you know, that doesn’t change necessarily.  There might be times where it might change.  I mean, there will be some very fluid situations.  I’ll be there not every day but more than that.

But I don’t need to be told, Chris, the same thing every day, every morning, same words.  Sir, nothing has changed.  Let’s go over it again.  I don’t need that.

I had three fundamental thoughts at the exact same time:

Number one: to this is that it is highly disturbing for the President-elect to be dismissive of information needed to make complex and timely decisions.

Number two:  that his self-perception that he is “a smart person” equals some kind of sufficiency in this arena is egomanical and personalistic in nature.  It also assume facts not in evidence in regards to the topic area under discussion–Donald J. Trump needs daily intel briefings more than any incoming president in history.

Number three:  my mind went back to two stories from the campaign.

The first was a profile of the ghostwriter of the Art of the Deal, Tony Schwartz, in The New Yorker who noted the following:

the discussion was soon hobbled by what Schwartz regards as one of Trump’s most essential characteristics: “He has no attention span.”


For the book, though, Trump needed to provide him with sustained, thoughtful recollections. He asked Trump to describe his childhood in detail. After sitting for only a few minutes in his suit and tie, Trump became impatient and irritable. He looked fidgety, Schwartz recalls, “like a kindergartner who can’t sit still in a classroom.” Even when Schwartz pressed him, Trump seemed to remember almost nothing of his youth, and made it clear that he was bored. Far more quickly than Schwartz had expected, Trump ended the meeting.

This is remarkably similar to how Trump is describing himself above.  He just doesn’t want to sit through teacher telling him “the same thing and the same words every single day.”  Because, of course, the world is a static and slow-paced place and nothing much changes from the day to day.

The other story that came to mind was this from CNN:  Kasich: Trump Jr. called aide to float VP offer

Kasich told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he didn’t receive a call himself. But he said one of his aides confirmed to him a New York Times report last month saying Donald Trump Jr. tried to entice Kasich with a position as the most powerful vice president in history — putting him in charge of all domestic and foreign policy — was accurate.

“That’s what one of them has told me, yes,” Kasich told Tapper in an interview aired Sunday on “State of the Union.”

The above from Trump (that Pence is getting daily briefings, while he is only getting weekly ones) gives some credence to the notion that he is delegating foreign policy to the Vice President, at least to some degree.

This is just another piece of ongoing evidence that a) he is the most ill-prepared and poorly qualified person ever elected to this office, but b) there is not going be any maturation as the result of being elected.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, Intelligence, National Security, US Politics, , , , , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. michael reynolds says:

    Of course there will be no maturation. He’s a psychopath, this is what a mature psychopath looks like. This is it. He is not capable of learning, he can’t even imagine a need to change. You might as well expect a crocodile to start reading Kierkegaard.

  2. @michael reynolds: To be clear: I do not personally expect any learning, either. I guess some people still do, weird as that is.

  3. Whenever I hear Trump talk about how smart he is I think about Fredo Corleone

  4. al-Ameda says:

    I don’t have to be told — you know, I’m like a smart person.

    In what way is he ‘like’ a smart person?

    More seriously, Trump seems to be in the Bush or Palin mode, wherein due diligence, consideration deliberation are not valued.

  5. michael reynolds says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Your post on Dunning-Kruger was apt. Genuinely smart people are smart enough to recognize their limitations. I doubt Einstein thought he was an expert on interior design, and I doubt Hawking considers himself an expert in archeology.

    In fact this is rather obviously proof of Trump’s lack of intelligence (I know, sorry, unavoidable) and indeed hostility to learning. For one thing he clearly cannot read above maybe a grammar school level, so he’ll avoid anything that involves reading – which is to say 90%+ of the information he should absorb.

    He’s a cinderblock intellectually, a stupid man determined to stay stupid.

  6. Chip Daniels says:

    Trump is an idiot, but tragically for America, a useful one.

  7. David M says:

    I was less concerned with the daily briefings than his china comments. There’s a pretty good chance the daily briefings are more than he can handle, and his skipping them is just admitting that. We’ve always known he wasn’t up for the job, so it’s going to be Pence and the GOP running most everything.

    The China comments though, show just how dangerous and deluded he is, and he’s still going to be the president, thanks to the Republican Party.

  8. michael reynolds says:

    @Chip Daniels:
    Sadly not useful to us, but quite likely to be useful to Russia and probably Iran and China as well, not to mention various jihadi groups.

  9. Scott says:

    Two immediate thoughts:

    1) Trump doesn’t need daily reports because he’s smart. Therefore, Mike Pence takes daily reports because he’s not smart.

    2) All snark aside, Trump is setting things up to avoid responsibilty if something does happen. ” Not my fault, they didn’t tell be when something changed.”

  10. Mikey says:

    It’s said Dick Cheney was the most powerful VP in American history, but Pence is about to make him look like a mere bystander.

    That this may actually benefit America is of no comfort whatsoever.

  11. Rick Zhang says:

    I’m somewhat hopeful of “conscience” Republican senators like Graham, McCain, Murkowski, and Collins to act as a check on Trump’s foreign policy missteps.

  12. Pch101 says:

    The 1,000 Year Reich missed its target by 988 years because it had a leader who thought he was the smartest guy in the room, even though he clearly wasn’t.

    Some successes along the way and the adulation of the populist idiots who supported him would encourage him to be reckless. Leading by ego would prove to be self-destructive. But of course, he always had others to blame when the situation eventually became so hopeless that even he had to acknowledge that things were going badly, so no lessons were learned and no responsibility was accepted.

    It didn’t help matters that there were conservatives and business interests who thought that they could manipulate him to serve their ends. They didn’t realize that you can’t tame an egomaniac who has more vindictiveness than sense.

  13. Terrye Cravens says:

    @al-Ameda: Bush is and never has been like Palin or Trump. He was diligent and he was a prolific reader. And he listened to what people told him. Trump will never be like that.

  14. Terrye Cravens says:

    Trump is not where he is because he is smart…he is where he is because millions of other people are stupid…

  15. gVOR08 says:

    @Terrye Cravens: I’ll add that I believe W. Bush generally wanted to do the right thing. He was just too intellectually lazy to figure out what the right thing was. Also too invested in simple minded country club conservatism and it took him way too long to figure out Cheney couldn’t be trusted.

  16. michael reynolds says:

    @Terrye Cravens:

    I am totally using that line. Creative Commons?

  17. gVOR08 says:

    @Rick Zhang:

    I’m somewhat hopeful of “conscience” Republican senators like Graham, McCain, Murkowski, and Collins to act as a check on Trump’s foreign policy missteps.

    As they did when all four voted for Bush’s Iraq War Resolution? I take the scare quotes as recognition that “conscience”, in its usual meaning, would be inappropriate.

  18. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    I would find comfort in the idea that Trump will be delegating much of the foreign policy work to Pence if I believed that Pence were up to the task. Here’s hoping that my ignorant crackerness and sociopathic tendencies to see idiocy everywhere I look in the coming administration are wrong.

  19. CSK says:

    Every time I hear Trump comment about how smart he is, or how knowledgeable he is (remember, he knows more about ISIS than the generals do!) I think of two remarks attributed to the late Princess of Wales. The first she uttered when one of her staff gently suggested she read a book (not a long one) about English history: “I didn’t get married to do bloody homework.”

    The second she uttered when her husband was trying to get her to read a five-page briefing paper about Portugal before a state visit: “I don’t have to. Everyone loves me the way I am.”

    This is Trump. He doesn’t have to do bloody homework, and everyone loves him the way he is.

    Of course, when he tried to woo Diana, she rejected him with a purported “Yuck,” which shows that of the two, she at least had better taste.

  20. CSK says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Yeah, we can hear Trump yelling, a la Fredo, “I’m smart! I can handle things.”

    I can also see him, a la Fredo, “banging cocktail waitresses two at a time” at the Trump Las Vegas.

  21. grumpy realist says:

    @CSK: Yes, there was the comment I heard from a Brit that if Diana had any fewer IQ points she would have been immobile and needed to be watered…

    (Speaking of intelligence, where DID that Italian patent go…?

  22. CSK says:

    @Rick Zhang:

    You’re hopeful that certain conscientious, thinking Republicans can divert Trump from doubling down on the crazy. But can you imagine how delicately they’ll have to deal with him when they’re trying to divert him from a disastrous course? First they’ll have to flatter him, and assure him that he’s the greatest foreign policy genius ever to walk the face of the earth. Then they’ll have to figure out some way to convince him that their ideas were really his own. Then they’ll have to go home terrified that something will set him off at 3 a.m.–an Alec Baldwin parody on SNL–or a Tweet he doesn’t like.

    This is a guy who’s spent his entire life surrounded by yes-men and yes-women who, furthermore, has demonstrated absolutely no ability to absorb and analyze information.

  23. Facebones says:

    For the millionth time since Nov 8th, I say to myself: “White people, wtf?”

    If it wasn’t going to take a generation to fix the damage Trump and his pack of looters are going to cause, I’d be more than happy to sit back and watch the white working class get what they voted for, good and hard.

  24. Franklin says:

    @michael reynolds:

    You might as well expect a crocodile to start reading Kierkegaard.

    I don’t, but mostly because a crocodile doesn’t *need* to read about that to find its next meal. Which gets to the crux of the matter … Trump doesn’t *need* daily Intel briefings, because his only job at this point is to continue to fool the working class into thinking he’s working for them.

  25. An Interested Party says:

    …I’d be more than happy to sit back and watch the white working class get what they voted for, good and hard.

    I’m curious why that got two down votes…does anyone really expect the white working class to do better under a President Trump? He has already betrayed them, and he hasn’t even taken over the office yet…

  26. CSK says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Diana, like Trump, had a truly wondrous ability to manipulate public opinion. Stupid, but shrewd in certain ways.

  27. Pch101 says:


    Diana was much easier on the eyes.

    More importantly, she wasn’t in charge of anything.

  28. michael reynolds says:

    @An Interested Party:

    I’m curious why that got two down votes

    That would be our resident Trump voters. They haven’t yet been told what to think about the Russia thing – they have to hear from Breitbart and Limbaugh and StormFront first, so they can’t comment until they download the software update. And the update may present some difficulties – they’ve been yelling for the last 4 years that Russia was the biggest threat ’cause Romney said so, and now they have love Big Brother, er president-elect Putin. That’ll give you whiplash.

  29. stonetools says:

    How long after the the inauguration do you think it will be before this ignorant bully who thinks he knows more than he does makes a massive, costly blunder, either on the domestic or foreign policy front:

    1. 3 months.
    2. 6 months
    3. I year
    4. 2 years

    I was thinking of adding the option”Before the inauguration” but I’m trying to be charitable and optimistic.One thing is sure: the blunder is coming, and there will likely be so many that we may be nostalgic for GWB-hard as thats to imagine.

  30. CSK says:


    Quite true.

    @michael reynolds: There’s a lot of whiplash involved in being an enthusiastic Trumpkin, or so it would seem. But I don’t think they voted for him so much for his policy positions, which, frankly they couldn’t, because to the extent those policy positions exist, they change from moment to moment.

    Trumpkins voted for Trump because he’s a crude, stupid, loudmouthed ignoramus, which to them, God help us, means he’s a real American patriot. They like him precisely because he derided John McCain for being captured, Serge Kovaleski for being handicapped, Carly Fiorina for being ugly by his standards, for accusing Mexicans of being rapists and murderers, for trashing the Khan family, and every other ugly moronic thing he ever said.

  31. Pch101 says:


    I’m expecting the US to suffer some sort of embarrassment ala the Hainan Island spy plane incident.

    (Had it not been for 9/11, that’s how we would remember George W. Bush’s foreign policy “finesse.”)

    Pitting a halfwit egomaniac who gets his knowledge of the world from cable news against an ambitious larger power that is highly motivated by a cultural imperative for saving face is likely to create drama.

  32. Moosebreath says:


    “How long after the the inauguration do you think it will be before this ignorant bully who thinks he knows more than he does makes a massive, costly blunder, either on the domestic or foreign policy front”


    “I’m expecting the US to suffer some sort of embarrassment ala the Hainan Island spy plane incident.”

    It may be starting already:

    “”I fully understand the ‘one China’ policy, but I don’t know why we have to be bound by a ‘one China’ policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade,” Trump said on “Fox News Sunday.”

    Of course, from China’s point of view, they already made a deal with us several decades ago where we agreed to the One China policy, in exchange for access to their markets. And I suspect we won’t like the terms China pushes for if we choose to reopen negotiations and China uses its Treasury bond holdings as leverage.

  33. Pch101 says:


    Nations throughout the world hold US treasuries because they provide the closest thing that the world has to a risk-free security. (The US has never defaulted — thank Alexander Hamilton for being a great financial innovator whose policies benefit this country even now.) China doesn’t have leverage over the US because it holds them.

    I expect that the greater problem is that US allies could finally lose faith in the Pax Americana, which will cause them to look for alternatives that are not so US-dependent. I expect that the Chinese will eventually make a push to dethrone the dollar in a way that benefits the Europeans and others, which will be the beginning of the end of US prestige — a Trump presidency could provide the spark.

    Re: an more immediate issue with China, I’m expecting some sort of mega faux-pas that forces Trump into some kind of corner. Not a game changer, but whatever it is will bring shame to the United States. In the worst case scenario, a semi-aggressive Chinese move toward Taiwan would force us to back down, which will send a message to Asia that will diminish US prestige (even though the average Fox News viewer won’t be smart enough to notice.)

  34. Moosebreath says:


    “China doesn’t have leverage over the US because it holds them.”

    It does, if selling enough of them drives up US interest rates, slowing the economy.

  35. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @An Interested Party: Because some uppity over-melanonized upstart has the temerity to throw shade on Trump supporters? Just a suggestion, you understand…

  36. David M says:


    Taiwan / China probably already has the potential on the foreign policy front. If it gets out of control, it’s an issue China feels strongly enough about to go to war over. Trump is apparently willing to risk massively screwing over an ally (Taiwan), and use them as leverage in a meaningless trade dispute with China.

    Think of the international message it will send if this continues and escalates, and Trump treats Taiwan as nothing more than than a bargaining chip in negotiations with China.

  37. rachel says:


    In what way is he ‘like’ a smart person?

    You can cut a chunk of celery off the rest, place it in your mouth and chew it. You can do the same with steak. Trump is like a smart person in the same way that celery is like steak.

  38. C. Clavin says:

    @michael reynolds:

    He’s a cinderblock intellectually

    A cinder-block with a comb-over and a shitty-fitting suit.

  39. al-Ameda says:

    @michael reynolds:

    You might as well expect a crocodile to start reading Kierkegaard.

    To be fair, a crocodile would not be interested in Kierkagaard at all – Carl Hiaasen, now that’s a different matter. Hiaasen is too deep for Trump

  40. Sleeping Dog says:


    For China, Taiwan is an essential part of the country. They could very well settle the one state issue by grabbing the island. Trump has indicated that the middle east, except ISIS is not of US concern and that eastern Europe and Nato are ephemeral to the US. What would he do about China taking Taiwan, probably nothing, unless they did it in away that made him look stupid to the stupids in the electorate then he’s start WWIII

  41. grumpy realist says:

    @Pch101: China could just decide to stay off the table the next time the next round of US Treasury bonds go out to get sold.

  42. sherparick1 says:

    @Mikey: Have you ever observed an interview of Mike Pence on TV. The guy was a disaster as Governor of Indiana during a economic recovery. I met bricks with more intellience.

  43. Eric Florack says:

    Perhaps one of the Democrat loyalists can explain to all of us why it is they complain about Trump not attending meetings when Obama only attended 42% of scheduled security briefings. I’m not a trump supporter and I think not attending security briefings is downright stupid. But why is it okay when Obama does it?

  44. Matt says:

    @Eric Florack: An “anonymous conservative source” telling a right wing tabloid stuff is picked up by the right wing echo chamber and spread across the net/radio. You picked up on it as gospel because you thought it could be used as a fact against them darn evil dimocRATS.

    There explained how you got that bullshit.

    Besides the claim was so vague it might even be technically correct as the original claim was that Obama only “received a face-to-face intelligence briefing 42% of the days he’s been in office”. Note the usage of face-to-face and you’ll see that in all the original reporting of the story (right wing hacks like you like to shorten it to make the claim worse). You don’t need a face to face briefing to be told “things are basically the same” you can easily understand that when reading the daily briefing papers.