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The U.S. intelligence community faced xe2x80x9cgreater challengesxe2x80x9d in briefing former President Trump than it had confronted in almost five decades, when President-elect Nixon was taking office, according to a new account published by the CIAxe2x80x99s internal research center. xc2xa0

As was well-documented during his time in office, Mr. Trumpxe2x80x99s tense relationship with U.S. intelligence agencies worsened amid politically charged investigations into his campaignxe2x80x99s contacts with Russia, leading to a xe2x80x9cbadly strainedxe2x80x9d rapport early in his presidency, former CIA officer Robert Helgerson writes in an update to his book, xe2x80x9cGetting to Know the President.xe2x80x9d xc2xa0

The book is featured among other unclassified materials on the CIAxe2x80x99s xe2x80x9cCenter for the Study of Intelligencexe2x80x9d website, but is for educational purposes and not an official product of the agency or reflective of its position, according to a disclaimer.xc2xa0

It was first published in 1996 and is a running historical account, dating back to the Truman administration, of how the intelligence community briefs newly elected presidents. Its latest chapter includes insights from the senior intelligence officials who oversaw the pre-election briefings offered to the presidential candidates in 2016, as well as briefings during the presidential transition and the delivery of the Presidentxe2x80x99s Daily Brief (PDB) throughout Trumpxe2x80x99s presidency. xc2xa0xc2xa0

xe2x80x9cFor the Intelligence Community, the Trump transition was far and away the most difficult in its historical experience with briefing new presidents,xe2x80x9d Helgerson says. xe2x80x9cTrump was like Nixon, suspicious and insecure about the intelligence process, but unlike Nixon in the way he reacted. Rather than shut the [intelligence community] out, Trump engaged with it, but attacked it publicly,xe2x80x9d he writes. xc2xa0

The director of Central Intelligence during Nixonxe2x80x99s presidency, Richard Helms, talked about the xe2x80x9crockyxe2x80x9d relationship between Nixon and the intelligence community in a 1982 interview that is included in thexc2xa0 book. Nixon xe2x80x9cwould constantlyxe2x80xa6pick on the [CIA] for not having properly judged what the Soviets were going to do with various kinds of weaponry. And obviously, he was being selective, but he would make nasty remarks about this and say this obviously had to be sharpened up.xe2x80x9d

Nixon mostly declined to receive the PDB, not because he wasnxe2x80x99t engaged with foreign policy xe2x80x94 he instead delegated this to his then-national security adviser Henry Kissinger. Throughout his presidency, according to the book, a courier would deliver the PDB to Kissingerxe2x80x99s office. Kissinger would then send Nixon the PDB xe2x80x9calong with material from the State Department, the White House Situation Room, the Joint Chiefs, and others,xe2x80x9d and then xe2x80x9cNixon would keep the material on his desk, reading it at his convenience throughout the day.xe2x80x9dxc2xa0

The latest installment of the book, a 40-page account, details Mr. Trumpxe2x80x99s first ever briefing, which took place in Augustxc2xa0 2016 at the FBI field office in New York City. Mr. Trump, then still the Republican presidential nominee, was xe2x80x9cprimarily a listener,xe2x80x9d the document says, xe2x80x9creflecting the fact that the material was new to him.xe2x80x9d At his second briefing in September, Mr. Trump asked xe2x80x9cnumerous questions,xe2x80x9d many of which xe2x80x9creflected his interest in financial and trade matters and in press reports about Russiaxe2x80x99s reported interference in the U.S. election campaign,xe2x80x9d the account says. xc2xa0

The briefings during the transition were led by a group of 14 intelligence officials hand-picked by Ted Gistaro, a veteran CIA analyst who later served as former President Trumpxe2x80x99s briefer. They hailed from the CIA, FBI, State Department and other agencies, and were the xe2x80x9clargest and most organizationally diverse group of experts ever deployed for transition briefings,xe2x80x9d according to the document.xc2xa0

Overall, Mr. Trumpxe2x80x99s briefings began with a delay, because his team xe2x80x9cwas not fully prepared to launch transition operations, apparently having not expected to win the election,xe2x80x9d Helgerson writes. xc2xa0

And while the earliest sessions were substantive, they could also be meandering, according to former Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper, who said Mr. Trump xe2x80x9cwas prone to fly off on tangents; there might be eight or nine minutes of real intelligence in an hourxe2x80x99s discussion.xe2x80x9d xc2xa0

Mr. Trumpxe2x80x99s already charged relationship with the intelligence community took a turn for the worse after he was briefed on the contents of a dossier xe2x80x93 whose most salacious claims have since been discredited xe2x80x93 that was compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. Despite efforts by Clapper to explain that the intelligence community had not relied on the dossier to arrive at its assessments of Russiaxe2x80x99s 2016 election interference xe2x80x93 and had not leaked the document to the media xe2x80x93 Trump remained unpersuaded and embittered. xc2xa0

xe2x80x9cGistaro recalled that when they met for their next PDB briefing session, Trump xe2x80x98vented for 10 minutes about how we [the IC] were out to destroy him.xe2x80x99 Gistaro did not believe that Trump ever accepted subsequent IC disavowals of responsibility for the dossier,xe2x80x9d Helgerson writes, using an abbreviation for xe2x80x9cintelligence community.xe2x80x9dxc2xa0

Still, Clapper also said that Mr. Trump, despite more negative public bluster, sometimes complimented the intelligence community, praising and expressing gratitude for the work of his briefers. The book notes that he was particularly appreciative of the CIAxe2x80x99s material on foreign leaders with whom he was dealing in the early weeks of his time in office. xc2xa0

Overall, Helgerson writes that behind closed doors, Mr. Trumpxe2x80x99s interactions with intelligence officials were more amicable than was apparent on Twitter, where the president often expressed frustration with what he called a xe2x80x9cDeep Statexe2x80x9d seeking to undermine his presidency.xc2xa0

xe2x80x9cEven during times when President Trump publicly expressed great irritation with the ICxe2x80x94most notably in 2019 when an [intelligence community] employee filed a whistle-blower complaint concerning the presidentxe2x80x99s efforts to have Ukraine investigate a political opponent, Joe Bidenxe2x80x94briefings continued as usual and Trumpxe2x80x99s demeanor during the sessions remained the same,xe2x80x9d Helgerson notes. xc2xa0

Mr. Trumpxe2x80x99s briefings were most frequent at the beginning of his administration; they averaged 2.5 sessions a week and lasted between 40-60 minutes, but tapered off over time. In what marked a break from recent convention, Trump was not briefed on covert action programs for the first several weeks of his administration, though other members of his administration, including CIA Director nominee Mike Pompeo, were. xc2xa0

Mr. Trumpxe2x80x99s intelligence briefers customized his PDB to his preferred format and consumption habits, as is traditionally done for incoming presidents. xc2xa0

xe2x80x9cOn most days, Trumpxe2x80x99s PDB comprised three one-page items describing new developments abroad, plus brief updates of ongoing crises in the Middle East,xe2x80x9d the account says. xe2x80x9cThe goal was to make the PDB shorter and tighter, with declarative sentences and no feature-length pieces.xe2x80x9dxc2xa0

Though the PDB was published every day, Mr. Trump only received an oral briefing two to three times a week, when xe2x80x9che relied on the briefer to orally summarize the significance of the most important issues,xe2x80x9d the account states. xc2xa0

xe2x80x9cA few subjects and areas of the world were notable by their relative absence. Regarding Europe, only NATO budget issues, Turkey, and approaching elections in France and Germany stimulated much discussion. Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia received almost no attention,xe2x80x9d Helgerson writes. xc2xa0

Of Mr. Trumpxe2x80x99s approach to the PDB, Gistaro, his first briefer, said, xe2x80x9cHe touched it. He doesnxe2x80x99t really read anything.xe2x80x9d Gistaroxe2x80x99s successor, Beth Sanner, adopted a xe2x80x9cstory-tellingxe2x80x9d approach to the briefings that included a one-page outline and a set of graphics, Helgerson recounts. xc2xa0

Sanner also led Mr. Trumpxe2x80x99s last briefing before he left for Mar-a-Lago for the holidays in 2020. He received no briefings in the final month of his presidency, and notably none following the January 6 attack on the Capitol. xc2xa0

xe2x80x9cTrump had his own way of receiving intelligence informationxe2x80x94and a uniquely rough way of dealing publicly with the ICxe2x80x94but it was a system in which he digested the key points offered by the briefers, asked questions, engaged in discussion, made his own priority interests known, and used the information as a basis for discussions with his policy advisers,xe2x80x9d Helgerson observes, adding, xe2x80x9cThe system worked, but it struggled.xe2x80x9d xc2xa0