The man who oversees U.S. intelligence operations indicated that his boss, President Donald Trump, has an ability to grasp information rivaling that of longtime intelligence professionals.
Speaking Tuesday at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, CIA Director Mike Pompeo praised the manner by which the president receives and processes knowledge from intelligence briefings.
“I have seen 25-year intelligence professionals receive briefings,” Pompeo told AEI’s Marc Thiessen. “I would tell you that President Trump is the kind of recipient of our information at the same level that they are.”
The CIA chief continued, noting that Trump receives briefings lasting between 30 and 40 minutes on almost daily basis, during which he “asks hard questions” and is “deeply engaged.”
“He has the grounding for him to be able to grasp this information in a way that he can ask sophisticated questions that then lead to important policy discussions,” Pompeo said.
“We’ll be sitting at a National Security Council meeting talking about a particular tropic,” Pompeo added, offering an example of Trump’s ability to process and retain information. “He’ll bring up something that I briefed him on weeks or months ago.”
The CIA director acknowledged the possibility that Trump already knew the information in question before getting briefed on it. But this type of scenario happens so often, Pompeo said, that he’s inclined to think Trump is recalling prior intelligence briefings.
“This happens time and time again,” Pompeo said.
“So it’s not simply the case that this is an exercise. He’s using it, he’s taking it on board, and I’m confident that our team is delivering in a way that’s delivering value to the president and … our other senior policymakers as well.”
Pompeo’s remarks on the president’s reception of intelligence information seemed to push back on prior reports claiming Trump has trouble staying focused,
In May 2017, a source told Reuters that National Security Council officials include Trump’s name in “as many paragraphs as (they) can because he keeps reading if he’s mentioned.” Moreover, the president reportedly prefers one-page memos and visual aids like charts, graphs and photos.
“He likes to visualize things,” a senior administration official said at the time. “The guy’s a builder. He has spent his whole life looking at architectural renderings and floor plans.”
Questions regarding Trump’s ability to take in and process information resurfaced in December, when The Washington Post reported that his daily briefing, or PDB, is “often structured to avoid upsetting him.”
“If you talk about Russia, meddling, interference — that takes the PDB off the rails,” said one former senior U.S. intelligence official.
But Pompeo painted a much different portrait — one of a president who takes his intelligence briefings very seriously.
“The president asks hard questions. He’s deeply engaged. We’ll have (a) rambunctious back and forth,” he said.