Is Biden right to say Trump shouldn’t receive intelligence briefings?


Fact Box

  • Joseph R. Biden, Jr. was inaugurated as the 46th president on Wednesday, January 20, 2021. 
  • On Biden’s first day in office, he rejoined the Paris Accords as well as the WHO, ordered a federal mask mandate, ended the Trump-era travel ban, as well as 13 other orders.
  • In the first network news interview since inauguration, Biden told Norah O’Donnell that Trump should not receive intelligence briefings “because of his erratic behavior unrelated to the insurrection” and worries that he will “slip and say something.”
  • Sam Gordon, Trump’s principal deputy director of national intelligence from 2017 to 2019 “urged” Biden to remove Trump from the briefings. 
  • This will be the first time that a former president is cut out of intelligence briefings, according to the New York Times. Briefings are currently given to Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.

Bill (No)

Biden was wrong to say he didn't think Trump should receive intelligence briefings. Even if he feels this way privately, he shouldn't have gone public with his views for two reasons—national intelligence briefings should not be fodder for the media, and it's poor form for him to recommend his predecessor not receive customary post-Presidential privileges and courtesies.

Trump should receive the same treatment as any other former President; he has not been convicted of any crime, and he has not done anything to warrant losing his access to intelligence information. Biden's objection to Trump receiving intelligence briefings is particularly audacious considering his and his son's own questionable conduct. In October of 2020, the New York Post uncovered key documents from Hunter Biden's hard drive that suggested a host of improper and questionable overseas transactions involving large sums of money changing hands. Most troubling is the implication that the President-elect was aware of his son's unsavory dealings. 

Matters of national intelligence should not be politicized. Biden claimed to want to unify the country in his inaugural address; however, his comments about Trump being barred from receiving intelligence briefings seem aimed at further dividing Americans after a contentious and disputed election. Despite receiving the harshest treatment in the media of any incumbent president in history, Trump still collected the most votes of any president seeking re-election. By pressing the issue of Trump's access to intelligence briefings, Biden risks appearing petty and spiteful while simultaneously alienating nearly half of American voters. It's hard to see how this helps him build consensus for his new administration's agenda.

Andrew (Yes)

On denying former President Trump access to intelligence briefings, President Biden posed the question, 'What value is giving him an intelligence briefing?' Indeed there is no benefit, only risk, and one which President Biden is right to avoid. Throughout his presidency, Trump proved he would disregard experts and act only as he saw fit. What's to say he wouldn't divulge or otherwise use information gleaned from an intelligence briefing since he has left the White House? 

Through his actions, which stoked the January 6th Capitol Hill insurrection, Trump showed he is more invested in his own fate than that of the nation's; those with such maligned priorities should not have access to sensitive information. This is especially acute as the FBI has been warning of increased threats from right-wing extremists for months, many of whom supported the former President, taking his version of the truth over mainstream reporting.

Trump faces a looming impeachment trial and potentially future indictments in the Southern District of New York. There is an ongoing criminal investigation spearheaded by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and forthcoming defamation lawsuits from two women claiming sexual assault. According to Forbes magazine, Trump has at least a billion dollars of debt coming due. Both these legal troubles and incredibly high debt levels would undoubtedly preclude an individual from receiving security clearances.

During his presidency, it was widely reported that Trump did not read reports, and it was difficult to manage his short attention span. It seems unlikely he would bother with the reading reports he found so uninteresting during his presidency now that he's vacated the office.

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