Home / intelligence / Life in the Times of the Mad Emperor, The Plague Year, Day 143

Life in the Times of the Mad Emperor, The Plague Year, Day 143

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I’m recently reminded of what Christopher Federico said about Trump back in September of 2019.

One thing I’ve thought for a while is that one of the best ways of characterizing Trump is that he’s just a replacement-level seventy-something Fox News viewer. He does not have even the level of sophistication you’d find at the high end of the expertise/awareness distribution in the mass public, let alone a bona-fide member of the political elite like Obama, either Bush, or Clinton.

Why am I reminded of this? Is it because Trump doesn’t seem to know what “per capita” means?

Or because his COVID-19 test is negative toward positive or whatever?

Those would certainly be valid reasons. But it’s actually something else entirely: the specifics in a recent report in New York Times about the trials and tribulations of attempting to brief Trump on intelligence matters

Mr. Trump, who has mounted a yearslong attack on the intelligence agencies, is particularly difficult to brief on critical national security matters, according to interviews with 10 current and former intelligence officials familiar with his intelligence briefings.

The president veers off on tangents and getting him back on topic is difficult, they said. He has a short attention span and rarely, if ever, reads intelligence reports, relying instead on conservative media and his friends for information. He is unashamed to interrupt intelligence officers and riff based on tips or gossip he hears from the former casino magnate Steve Wynn, the retired golfer Gary Player or Christopher Ruddy, the conservative media executive.

Mr. Trump rarely absorbs information that he disagrees with or that runs counter to his worldview, the officials said. Briefing him has been so great a challenge compared with his predecessors that the intelligence agencies have hired outside consultants to study how better to present information to him.

Working to keep Mr. Trump’s interest exhausted.. burned out his first briefer, Ted Gistaro, two former officials said. Mr. Gistaro did not always know what to expect and would sometimes have to brief an erratic and angry president upset over news reports, the officials said.

Also, Grenell’s spin on the charges is like the purest distillation of the “Trump’s total unfitness for office is actually a strength” style of Trump sycophancy.

Richard Grenell, the acting director of national intelligence, said that the idea that Mr. Trump was difficult in intelligence briefings was “flat wrong.” “When you are there, you see a president questioning the assumptions and using the opportunity to broaden the discussion to include real-world perspectives,” Mr. Grenell said.

But at least Grenell will be going back to Germany – where he can continue to cultivate ties with the far right – and won’t be weaponizing the intelligence community to support Trump’s reelection, right?

Oh, yeah.

The US Senate has confirmed John Ratcliffe as director of national intelligence, installing a Trump loyalist as head of the nation’s intelligence agencies.

The Texas Republican seemed unlikely to get the position when he was nominated in February, as he had already been nominated for the job last year and then withdrew after Republicans questioned his experience. But senators warmed to him as they grew concerned about upheaval in the intelligence community under Trump following a series of oustings, and wanted a permanent, confirmed director.

At least this is one counterterrorism-related job on his resumé that won’t be fabricated. So there’s that.

Why now? I have no idea. He’s still unqualified and all that.

Maybe Senate Republicans actually do think that a confirmed Ratcliffe will be an improvement over an acting Grenell – and the terrifying thought is that they might be correct.

Maybe Senate Republicans know that, given current political trends, their only hope is base enthusiasm and this is a way to make the Mad Emperor happy.

Or maybe Senate Republicans have concluded that the writing is on the wall and are basically all “fuck it, he’ll be gone within eight months anyway.”

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