After President Biden seemed to state publicly that he would take the unprecedented step to ban former President Trump from receiving intelligence briefings, the White House has backtracked on Biden’s words. Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Saturday the president was merely ‘expressing his concern’ and will leave the final decision to his intelligence team.
In an interview with CBS Evening News Friday night, Biden said he did not think Trump should receive the briefings citing the ex-president’s ‘erratic behavior,’ adding that he would ‘rather not speculate out loud’ what his worst fear is if Trump is given access but said there is ‘no need’ for Trump to have them.
Pres. Biden sits down with @NorahODonnell for his first network interview since taking office.
— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) February 5, 2021
It is a long-standing tradition for former presidents to be granted routine intelligence briefings and access to classified information once they leave office to allow them to continue to support U.S. interests. It is also a sign of respect and continuity between the current and former president.
While not at the highest classification levels reserved for the current President, the intelligence briefings are still delivered by current intelligence officers.
No other President has ever denied that tradition, but the decision does lie with the current Commander-in-Chief. And, of course, Trump left the White House breaking with traditions and is currently being impeached, unconstitutionally many Senators argue, over his alleged complicity in the Capitol riots.
In a Washington Post column published last month, Susan M. Gordon, who served as principal deputy director of national intelligence until 2019 under Trump, urged Biden to cut off Trump’s access to the sensitive briefings, arguing that his “significant business entanglements that involve foreign entities,” and his plans to remain politically active, made him “unusually vulnerable to bad actors with ill intent.”
Many of these issues, however, could also have been used against former President Bill Clinton, and his controversial multi-million dollar global financial entanglements and fundraising, all while his wife Hillary also ran for President. It appears highly selective to now suddenly use them against Trump.
Either way, to avoid personalizing the issue, as Biden seemed to do, backtrack on his remarks, or simply to pass the buck to his national security team, Psaki stated, according to the Washington Post:
The president was expressing his concern about former president Trump receiving access to sensitive intelligence, but he also has deep trust in his own intelligence team to make a determination about how to provide intelligence information if at any point the former president Trump requests a briefing.
It is unclear when a final decision on the matter will be reached, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has not commented on the decision.