- Former President Donald Trump’s intelligence interests differed from those of his predecessors.
- Trump was more intrigued by the extramarital affairs of world leaders than UFOs, The New York Times reports.
- If something interested him, he would say, “can I keep this?,” The Times reported.
As commander-in-chief, Donald Trump didn’t have an appetite for secret weapons programs or intelligence reports of extraterrestrial life. He was more intrigued with his own personal relations to world leaders and presidential assassinations, the New York Times reported.
“Mr. Trump did not care about intelligence reports about U.F.O.s, but he would ask questions about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy,” according to the New York Times.
The Thursday report said the former president would often quiz intelligence briefers about the power of America’s nuclear weapons arsenal.
Julian E. Barnes, Michael C. Bender, and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times wrote that Trump was captivated by the affairs of his international colleagues.
“With many world leaders, Mr. Trump, whose own dalliances were the stuff of gossip columns for years, was fascinated by what the C.I.A. had learned about his international counterparts’ supposed extramarital affairs — not because he was going to confront them with the information, former officials said, but rather because he found it titillating.”
Trump, whose intelligence briefings were held twice a week, also had a desire to see how other world leaders received their meetings with him as he strived to build relationships with autocrats like Kim Jong-un of North Korea and Xi Jinping of China.
But, the former president also wanted information on leaders he didn’t particularly get along with or like such as the Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Emmanuel Macron of France.
“He is all about leverage,” Sue Gordon, a former principal deputy director of national intelligence, told The Times. “It is not my experience that he has an ideologically held view about anything. It’s all about what he can use as leverage in this moment.”
The FBI search of Trump’s Mar-A-Lago residence last month unearthed the president’s keen interest in classified and sensitive documents. Former officials of the Trump administration and individuals who were involved in intelligence affairs told the NYT reporters the things that piqued Trump’s interest the most were those with visual elements like images or graphics.
“Intelligence briefers tried to find a way to get inside his head and would bring along a picture — a chart or a graph or something like that — and hand it to him across the Resolute Desk,” John Bolton, a former national security adviser to Trump told the New York Times. “Sometimes he would say: ‘Hey, this is interesting. Can I keep this?'”
Former officials interviewed by the New York Times, many of which requested anonymity for fear of backlash mixed with their involvement in sensitive meetings, said they recalled Trump taking documents from classified briefings. However, sometimes when the president asked them to acquire a document for him, they couldn’t always deliver.
“For Trump, every time you ask for something back, it implies you don’t trust him,” Bolton told the New York Times.
Trump kept a cardboard box by his desk where he would often put unanswered letters, newspapers he didn’t read, and other materials. Once one box was filled another would take its place. None of the officials who spoke with The Times remembered if any classified materials had made their way into those boxes.
When President Joe Biden took office in January of 2021, he barred Trump from attending intelligence briefings, which were typically open to preceding presidents.
“He is no longer the president,” Gordon told the New York Times. “He no longer has a need to know. And on top of that he is not a person who is careful, nor does he understand the importance of keeping intelligence secret. That creates a very explosive cocktail.”
Other presidents rarely took material from intelligence briefings, but former officials told the New York Times that Trump didn’t necessarily have the same regard for sensitivity.