WASHINGTON – The White House on Saturday said President Joe Biden’s comment that his predecessor should not receive intelligence briefings was not a final decision on the matter, which will instead be resolved by intelligence officials.
Biden made his views known during an appearance on “CBS Evening News” with Norah O’Donnell. Asked whether former president Donald Trump should receive the briefings, as is customary for ex-presidents, Biden said, “I think not.”
“What value is giving him an intelligence briefing?” Biden said in a portion of the interview aired Friday. “What impact does he have at all, other than the fact he might slip and say something?”
Biden has the unilateral authority to deny intelligence access to anyone he chooses, and his remarks seemed to suggest he considered Trump enough of a risk to do so. But his aides said he would leave that decision to his intelligence team.
“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,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement issued Saturday.
Psaki, when earlier asked whether the Biden administration would cut off Trump’s access to the sensitive material, said the matter was “under review.” The Office of the Director of National Intelligence did not respond Saturday to a request for comment. A spokesman for Trump also did not respond to requests for comment.
Former presidents do not receive the same classified daily briefing as a sitting commander in chief. Still, their briefings are typically delivered by current intelligence officers – partly out of respect and convention and partly to prepare them if their advice is solicited or if they’re representing the administration abroad.
Explaining his reasoning for wanting to withhold the information from his predecessor, which would be without precedent, Biden said, “because of his erratic behavior unrelated to the insurrection.”
The response made clear that Biden’s concerns go beyond the events of Jan. 6, which are core to the Senate impeachment trial set to begin in a few days. As president, Trump selectively revealed highly classified information to attack his adversaries, gain political advantage and impress or intimidate foreign governments, in some cases jeopardizing U.S. intelligence capabilities.
Now that he has sequestered himself at Mar-a-Lago, his resort in Florida, the fear among some intelligence experts is that he could weaponize the material for his political gain as he weighs another bid for the White House and promises to remain active in right-wing politics. In a Washington Post column published last month, Susan Gordon, who served as principal deputy director of national intelligence until 2019, urged Biden to cut off Trump’s access to the sensitive briefings.
She cited his vow to remain politically active, as well as his “significant business entanglements that involve foreign entities.” Those factors, she argued, made him “unusually vulnerable to bad actors with ill intent.”
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The Washington Post’s Shane Harris contributed to this report.