Day 1,194: Report: Trump ignored more than a dozen coronavirus briefings in January and February

Despite being one of the best assets at a president’s fingertips, Donald Trump has a strained relationship with U.S. intelligence. Trump, who prefers books with pictures over books with words, is more likely to use intelligence briefing books and memoranda as coasters than reading material.

In perhaps is most famous nose-thumbing, Trump publicly sided with Russian president Vladimir Putin over U.S. intelligence in 2018 when it came to election meddling. Standing next to Putin in Helsinki, with TVs around the world watching, Trump called out the head of U.S. intelligence, saying he believed the Russians had nothing to do with the interference.

“My people came to me, [Director of National Intelligence] Dan Coats came to me and some others saying they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia,” Trump said. “I will say this, I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

Trump would later cite the strength of Putin’s denial for his belief that the Russian leader was telling the truth.

Trump continues to rely on his “very, very large brain” over qualified individuals passing along some of the best intelligence in the world. Either out of laziness or ego, Trump frequently eschews data and science, choosing to go with his gut.

That’s often a problem, but has proven to be especially so with a pandemic bearing down. According to a Washington Post report, Trump ignored over a dozen classified briefings in January and February highlighting the dangers of the coronavirus to the U.S.

U.S. intelligence agencies issued warnings about the novel coronavirus in more than a dozen classified briefings prepared for President Trump in January and February, months during which he continued to play down the threat, according to current and former U.S. officials.

The repeated warnings were conveyed in issues of the President’s Daily Brief, a sensitive report that is produced before dawn each day and designed to call the president’s attention to the most significant global developments and security threats.

For weeks, the PDB — as the report is known — traced the virus’s spread around the globe, made clear that China was suppressing information about the contagion’s transmissibility and lethal toll, and raised the prospect of dire political and economic consequences.

But the alarms appear to have failed to register with the president, who routinely skips reading the PDB and has at times shown little patience for even the oral summary he takes two or three times per week, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified material.

Despite information in the PDB that would have greatly assisted him in combating coronavirus, Trump’s ignorance has shown through at briefings, on social media and at political rallies. For instance:

As of Monday evening, there are over 1,000,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and over 56,000 deaths in the U.S.

1,194 days in, 268 to go

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