FACT CHECK: Was Obama Not Briefed By His CIA Director Daily?

Kush Desai | Fact Check Reporter

CIA Director Mike Pompeo claimed on “Fox News Sunday” that former President Barack Obama did not receive daily briefings from his CIA director.

Verdict: True

While Obama did not meet daily with his CIA director, he did receive a written intelligence brief every day and met with senior intelligence officials often.

Fact Check:

Fox News host Chris Wallace asked Pompeo Sunday about criticism by Democrats and some in the media that Trump is unfit for office. He brought up remarks the CIA director made to The Washington Post in May about how Trump likes “killer graphics,” including maps, charts and pictures. Critics have derided Trump’s preference for visual over written information to suggest he’s intellectually unfit.

Pompeo responded to this characterization by pointing out that Obama received his briefings differently.

“Yes, absolutely. I love color graphics. So do you, Chris. You use them on your screen all the time here on the show, right? It’s how you convey information,” Pompeo said. “This president reads material that we provide to him; he listens closely to his daily briefing. Different presidents – the previous president didn’t receive his briefing in that same way. He didn’t take a daily briefing from his CIA director. President Obama chose not to do that.”

Obama, like all presidents for the last 50 years, received a written intelligence report known as the Presidential Daily Brief. But, unlike Trump, he did not regularly hold an in-person briefing.

The conservative Government Accountability Institute estimates that Obama had an oral briefing with intelligence officials 42 percent of the time from January 2009 to September 2014. This percentage may be understated due to briefings not listed on the White House public schedule. Obama may have also discussed his daily brief in National Security Council or other meetings.

Trump meets personally with his CIA director nearly every day by contrast.

While Obama was the first president to receive briefings electronically – he eventually read the daily brief on an iPad – he was not the first to have forgone daily, in-person briefings with senior intelligence officials.

The only presidents besides Trump who scheduled daily, face-to-face briefings with officials from the CIA were former Presidents Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, according to an op-ed by former CIA analyst David Priess.

Intelligence officials alter the format and delivery of briefings based on the preferences of the sitting president. “That’s our task, right? To deliver the material in a way that he can best understand the information we’re trying to communicate,” Pompeo explained to WaPo back in May.

Intelligence officers first started consolidating new intelligence into daily summaries at the request of President Harry Truman. White House aides then had these summaries condensed into pocket-sized daily intelligence “checklists” for President John F. Kennedy. The checklists were later reformatted as daily briefs for President Lyndon Johnson.

Reporting indicates that Trump’s daily briefings are dialogues between him and intelligence officials that often run past their scheduled time. “It’s a very oral, interactive discussion, as opposed to sitting there and reading from a text or a script,” Pompeo told WaPo.

Preferences for the daily briefing can also change. Trump, for instance, opted for fewer intelligence briefings during the presidential transition.

“I’m like a smart person,” he told Fox News in December 2016. “I don’t have to be told the same thing and the same words every single day for the next eight years. It could be eight years, but eight years. I don’t need that.”

Obama also re-evaluated his approach to the daily brief during his presidency.

“Over the years, you accumulate knowledge,” Obama said in a 2016 YouTube interview. “How I think about it today is different than the first day I walked into the Oval Office. Now, I’ve got enough of a baseline of knowledge … that I may not have to go into the briefing book as deeply as I did initially.”

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Kush Desai

Fact Check Reporter