Just one Trump transition aide for U.S. spy agencies: officials

November 30, 2016 4:38 PM EST

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By Jonathan Landay and Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Only one member of President-elect Donald Trump's transition team is dealing with the CIA and the 16 other offices and agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community, four U.S. officials said Wednesday.

Geoffrey Kahn, a former House intelligence committee staffer, is the only person named so far to Trump's intelligence community "landing team," they said. As a result, said one senior career intelligence officer, briefing books prepared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the National Security Agency, the National Counterterrorism Center, and 13 other agencies and organizations are "waiting for someone to read them.""It seems like an odd time to put issues like cyber security and international terrorism on the back burner," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.Previous administrations, the official said, were quicker to staff their intelligence teams, in part because they considered intelligence issues critical to setting foreign policy, defense and budget priorities.

The intelligence community has some 200,000 employees and contractors and an annual budget of more than $70 billion. It collects and analyzes information on a vast array of subjects, from national security threats such as terrorism and climate change to global conflicts and the foreign, defense and trade policies of foreign governments.

Kahn has been in periodic contact with the CIA, said two of the officials, adding that they did not know if he had been in touch with the other intelligence agencies.

In addition to reviewing potential candidates for top posts, Kahn is responsible for coordinating briefings for nominees and helping prepare them for Senate confirmation hearings.

Trump has announced that he intends to nominate U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas to succeed CIA Director John Brennan, who will step down in January.

He has yet to tap nominees for other senior positions, including a successor to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, the top U.S. intelligence officer. Clapper, 75, will leave the government when Trump is sworn as president on January 20.

NO DAILY BRIEFINGS

Trump on Tuesday received only his third intelligence briefing since he won the Nov. 8 presidential election, despite an offer from President Barack Obama of daily briefings, three of the officials said.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence has been receiving intelligence briefings daily or nearly every day, one of the officials said.

Trump's decision to forgo daily briefings and his delay in designating more transition advisers to engage with the intelligence agencies may reflect his focus on filling the top economic positions in his administration.

However, said the senior career official, it also may reflect the disinterest and distrust in U.S. intelligence Trump has expressed during and after his presidential campaign.

Asked on Aug. 17 if he trusted U.S. intelligence, Trump replied: "Not so much from the people that have been doing it for our country. I mean, look what's happened over the last 10 years."

After his first classified briefing as the Republican presidential candidate, Trump said he "didn't learn anything" that prompted him to rethink his view about how to fight Islamic State. On the other hand, he said, "When they call it intelligence, it's there for a reason."On other occasions, he has contradicted or ignored what his briefers told him.

After being briefed that U.S. intelligence had concluded that the Russian government was behind the hacking of U.S. political institutions, he said that "maybe there is no hacking" or than maybe it was China or "somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds."Trump's attitude contrasts with those of his predecessors.

In his book "Getting to Know the President," veteran CIA officer John Helgerson wrote that former President Jimmy Carter asked for longer briefings and Bill Clinton asked the CIA to expand his daily briefs to include economic and environmental issues.

(Reporting by Jonathan Landay and Mark Hosenball; Editing by John Walcott and Jonathan Oatis)



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