President-elect Donald Trump dismissed concerns that he is rejecting the presidential intelligence briefings every day, saying he really doesn’t think they’re necessary. “You know, I’m, like, a smart person. I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years. Could be eight years—but eight years. I don’t need that,” Trump told Fox News’ Chris Wallace in an interview that was taped Saturday. “But I do say, ‘If something should change, let us know’. ”
Trump’s answer once again hints at the tensions that exist between the incoming administration and the intelligence community since he made it sound as if the briefings are repetitive and not necessary for his job as commander in chief. The president-elect did emphasize though that Vice President–elect Mike Pence does receive the briefings and that he can rely on those around him for the information.
“In the meantime, my generals are great—are being briefed. And Mike Pence is being briefed, who is, by the way, one of my very good decisions,” Trump said. “And they’re being briefed. And I’m being briefed also. But if they’re going to come in and tell me the exact same thing that they tell me—you know, it doesn’t change, necessarily.”
Reuters reported on Friday that Trump is receiving an average of one presidential intelligence briefing a week.
Trump also dismissed as “ridiculous” the claims that Russia meddled in the U.S. elections to help him win, asserting with no evidence that Democrats are to blame for pushing the storyline. “It’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it,” Trump said. “I think the Democrats are putting it out because they suffered one of the greatest defeats in the history of politics in this country.”
Numerous outlets have confirmed the bombshell Washington Post story that reported intelligence agencies concluded that Russia tried to boost Trump’s chances of winning the election by undermining Hillary Clinton. Trump, however, insists nobody knows who was responsible for the hacking during the campaign. “They have no idea if it’s Russia or China or somebody. It could be somebody sitting in a bed some place,” he said.
Trump’s efforts to play down the importance of the daily intelligence briefings and his statement about political motivations of the CIA’s conclusion on Russian hacking “widened a remarkable breach between a president-elect and the agencies he will have to rely on to carry out priorities like fighting terrorism and deterring cyberattacks,” notes the New York Times.
Wallace also confronted Trump on his conflicts of interest, but Trump insisted his economic interests won’t be a problem because even though he “has the right” to still do business deals, he won’t be focusing on that. “I’m not going to be doing deals at all,” Trump said, adding that he is “turning down billions of dollars in deals.” But the president-elect says he’s not focused on his business now that will be run by the current managers and his children. “I’m going to have nothing to do with management,” he said.
In the Fox News interview, Trump also said he is “getting very, very close” to making a choice for who he will appoint to be secretary of state. Even though he did not confirm reports that he was getting ready to appoint Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson to be the country’s chief diplomat, he did praise his experience. “He’s much more than a business executive. … He’s a world-class player,” Trump said, explaining that one of the good things about Tillerson is “he knows many of the players, and he knows them well.” Trump specifically cited how Tillerson “does massive deals in Russia” as a big advantage.