President Trump’s daily intelligence briefer made rare public remarks amid questions about why the commander-in-chief was not briefed on reports of Russia paying the Taliban to kill US troops in Afghanistan.
Beth Sanner, a senior official at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, spoke about the challenges of her unique career and tailoring her briefings to the individual “customers” during an appearance at a virtual event hosted by the Intelligence & National Security Alliance.
“Is this someone who reads? Someone who likes a story? Operates on visuals? You figure out before you go in what that person needs from you,” Sanner said while discussing her briefing style, according to remarks obtained by Politico.
The senior ODNI official did not mention President Trump by name or the controversy during Monday’s event, instead focusing on her own techniques generally.
“Be calm in your confidence, do your homework, and have that first briefing be where you hit the things they need from you. Watch your audience and pivot—when they’re done, you’re done. Ultimately, it’s about listening to be heard. You have to really hear people and then adjust yourself,” the intelligence official advised.
Her appearance came in the wake of National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien’s allegation last week that Sanner was the one who opted against briefing the president on that particular intelligence because they were not yet confirmed.
“The president was not briefed because at the time of these allegations, they were uncorroborated. The intelligence community did not have a consensus. As a result, the president’s career CIA briefer decided not to brief him because it was unverified intelligence. And, by the way, she is an outstanding officer and knowing all the facts I know, I certainly support her decision,” he said during a Fox News appearance Wednesday.
Late last month, the New York Times reported that Trump and the National Security Council were informed of the covert operations in March, but had taken no action in response.
The White House and the commander-in-chief denied the report at the time.
“Nobody briefed or told me, @VPPence, or Chief of Staff @MarkMeadows about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians, as reported through an ‘anonymous source by the Fake News @nytimes. Everybody is denying it & there have not been many attacks on us,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
The National Security Council backed up the White House’s denials, with O’Brien saying, “While we do not normally discuss such matters, we constantly evaluate intelligence reports and brief the President as necessary.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has defended the Trump administration’s handling of the situation, saying US spy agencies responded “incredibly well” to the intelligence despite Russia’s behavior being “nothing new.”
The nation’s top diplomat has declined to flatly confirm or deny the reports on the alleged bounty, however.
“We took this seriously, we handled it appropriately. The Russians have been selling small arms that have put Americans at risk there for 10 years. We’ve objected to it,” he said at a press conference last week, “When I meet with my Russian counterparts, I talk with them about this each time. ‘Stop this.’”
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