For Spy Agencies, Briefing Trump Is a Test of Holding His Attention 情報機關向川普簡報 要他專心很難
文/Julian E. Barnes and Adam Go
President Donald Trump has blamed many others for his administration's flawed response to the coronavirus: China, governors, the Obama administration, the World Health Organization. In recent weeks, he has also faulted the information he received from an obscure analyst who delivers his intelligence briefings.
Trump has insisted that the intelligence agencies gave him inadequate warnings about the threat of the virus, describing it as "not a big deal." Intelligence officials have publicly backed him, acknowledging that Beth Sanner, the analyst who regularly briefs the president, underplayed the dangers when she first mentioned the virus to him Jan. 23.
But in blaming Sanner, a CIA analyst with three decades of experience, Trump ignored a host of warnings he received around that time from higher-ranking officials, epidemiologists, scientists, biodefense officials, other national security aides and the news media about the virus's growing threat. Trump's own health secretary had alerted him five days earlier to the potential seriousness of the virus.
The president veers off on tangents, and getting him back on topic is difficult, they said. He has a short attention span and rarely, if ever, reads intelligence reports, relying instead on conservative media and his friends for information.
Trump rarely absorbs information that he disagrees with or that runs counter to his worldview, the officials said. Briefing him has been so great a challenge compared with his predecessors that the intelligence agencies have hired outside consultants to study how better to present information to him.
"How do you know?" is Trump's common refrain during his 30- to 50-minute briefings two or three times a week. He counters with his own statistics on issues where he has strong views, like trade or NATO. Directly challenging him, even when his numbers are wrong, appears to erode Trump's trust, according to former officials, and ultimately he stops listening.
Intelligence briefings are among the most important entries on a president's calendar. The briefer, always a top CIA analyst, delivers the latest secrets and best insights from the 17 intelligence agencies. The oral briefings to Trump are based on the President's Daily Brief, the crown jewels of intelligence reports, which draws from spywork to make sophisticated analytic predictions about long-standing adversaries, unfolding plots and emerging crises around the world.
All the while, Chauvin tussled with a man before firing two shots, critically wounding him. He was admonished for using derogatory language and a demeaning tone with the public. He was named in a brutality lawsuit. But he received no discipline other than two letters of reprimand.
It was not until Chauvin, 44, was seen in a video with his left knee pinned to the neck of a black man, prone for nearly nine minutes and pleading for relief, that the officer, who is white, was suspended, fired and then charged with murder.
His case is not unusual. Critics say the department, despite its long history of accusations of abuse, never fully implemented federal recommendations to overhaul the way in which it tracks complaints and punishes officers—with just a handful over the years facing termination or severe punishment.
Even as outrage has mounted over deaths at the hands of the police, it remains notoriously difficult in the United States to hold officers accountable, in part because of the political clout of police unions, the reluctance of investigators, prosecutors and juries to second-guess an officer's split-second decision and the wide latitude the law gives police officers to use force.
Police departments themselves have often resisted civilian review or dragged their feet when it comes to overhauling officer disciplinary practices. And even change-oriented police chiefs in cities like Baltimore and Philadelphia—which over the last few years have been the sites of high-profile deaths of black men by white officers—have struggled to punish or remove bad actors.
Across the country, civilian review boards—generally composed of members of the public—have been notoriously weak. They gather accounts, but cannot enforce any recommendations.
In 2012, the civilian board in Minneapolis was replaced by an agency called the Office of Police Conduct Review. Since then, more than 2,600 misconduct complaints have been filed by members of the public, but only 12 have resulted in an officer being disciplined. The most severe censure has been a 40-hour suspension.