Whether or not former President Donald Trump continues to have access to classified intelligence briefings is a decision that will be left up to the intelligence community, White House officials said on Saturday.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement to the Washington Post that President Joe Biden has faith in intelligence officials to make the correct determination a day after he openly questioned whether Trump’s briefings should continue, The Hill reported.
“The president was expressing his concern about former president Trump receiving access to sensitive intelligence, but he also has deep trust in his own intelligence team to make a determination about how to provide intelligence information if at any point the former President Trump requests a briefing,” said Psaki.
Her statement comes after Biden expressed an interest in curbing his predecessor’s access to sensitive intelligence briefings following calls by former Principal Executive of National Intelligence Susan M. Gordon and current House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) to cut Trump off.
In an interview with CBS News last week, Biden responded when asked if Trump should continue to get briefings: “I think not.”
When asked to explain, Biden said it was “because of his erratic behavior unrelated to the insurrection” — a term most Democrats and some Republicans have used to describe the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol Building.
“You’ve called him an existential threat. You’ve called him dangerous. You’ve called him reckless,” CBS News host Nora O’Donnell said during the Friday interview.
“Yeah, I have, and I believe it,” the president responded.
“What’s your worst fear if he continues to get these intelligence briefings?” she asked.
“I’d rather not speculate out loud. I just think that there is no need for him to have the intelligence briefing. What value is giving him an intelligence briefing? What impact does he have at all, other than the fact he might slip and say something?” Biden said.
It’s customary for former presidents to continue receiving intelligence briefings, but the White House has decided to allow the intelligence community to make the call on Trump. It’s not clear when a decision will be made.
Trump had a rocky relationship during his term with the intelligence community. Before the 45th president took office, then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned Trump not to mess with the IC after he pushed back on claims intelligence officials were making about so-called “collusion” with Russia — claims which turned out to be false.
“Let me tell you: You take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you,” Schumer told MSNBC host Rachel Maddow in early January 2017. “For a practical, supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he’s being really dumb to do this.”
In addition, there were several intelligence leaks during Trump’s tenure, including a so-called whistleblower complaint regarding a phone call with Ukraine’s president that led to Trump’s first impeachment.
Since the Jan. 6 incident at the U.S. Capitol Building, Trump has come under fire repeatedly by Democrats and some Republicans for comments he made during a speech ahead of the riot in which they say inflamed some in the crowd and caused them to riot. Five people died as a result of the melee, including a protester who was shot and killed by a plainclothes official and a Capitol Police officer who reportedly died from a wound received during the assault.
During his speech, Trump specifically asked the crowd to approach the Capitol and demonstrate “peacefully.”
“I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard,” he said.
Also, federal investigators have uncovered evidence that the Capitol assault was preplanned. Pro-Trump message boards were filled with comments weeks ahead of the Jan. 6 incident indicating some were planning to storm the building, and the FBI says pipe bombs discovered at the RNC and DNC headquarter buildings were planted the night before.
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