DUBAI (Reuters) - Former CIA director Leon Panetta said on Wednesday that President-elect Donald Trump risked being blamed after any potential attack on the United States if he refused to receive more regular intelligence briefings.
U.S. officials told Reuters that Trump is receiving an average of one presidential intelligence briefing a week - far fewer than most of his recent predecessors - but that his deputy Mike Pence gets briefings around six days a week.
Panetta, a former Democratic Congressman who served as CIA director and defense secretary in President Barack Obama’s first term, told the Arab Strategy Forum, a conference sponsored by the government of Dubai, that Trump’s aversion “can’t last.”
“I’ve seen presidents who have asked questions about whether that intelligence is verifiable, what are the sources for that intelligence, but I have never seen a president who said, ‘I don’t want that stuff,’” Panetta said.
“If we endure another attack and the intelligence officials had indications or information regarding that attack and the president did not want to listen to that, for whatever reason, the responsibility for that attack would fall on the president.”
In an interview with Fox News on Sunday, Trump said he found the intelligence briefings repetitive and that he already understood potential threats.
“You know, I’m a smart person. I don’t have to be told the same things in the same words every single day for the next eight years,” Trump said.
Panetta said Trump should heed the view of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia had interfered in the presidential election through cyberattacks.
“When it comes to Russian interference in our last campaign, 17 intelligence agencies agree that Russia is involved in that effort. I think the President would do well to say we ought to find out what Russia’s role was, we ought to investigate it and ensure that it never happens again.”
The CIA reportedly believes Russian hacking was aimed at boosting Trump’s candidacy - an assessment not shared by the FBI, which along with other U.S. agencies has concluded that Russian cyberattacks sought generally to undermine the election.
Trump called the CIA assessment “ridiculous”, and Russia has denied meddling in the election.
Reporting by Noah Browning, editing by Sami Aboudi and Mark Trevelyan