The White House did not react in time to the pandemic despite having the information to do so.
Before Donald Trump took office, the president of the United States was the best informed man in the world. His source of information was the President’s Daily Briefing, a summary of secret information gathered by the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies and presented by the director of national intelligence in a daily meeting in the Oval Office before a small group of staff members.
It is difficult for any relevant fact not to be captured by such a formidable information collection system. Some presidents have been avid readers of the PDB, while others have limited themselves to listening to the heads of the intelligence agencies. All of them have been cognizant of the value of this privileged information source and have based their most far-reaching decisions on it.
Trump, however, does not read the intelligence reports. He does not listen to the analyses of his intelligence agency heads, whom he interrupts constantly with his wisecracks. He has even developed a certain antipathy toward the authors of these reports, whom he considers to be representatives of the “deep state,” hostile to his presidency and prone to lying to him or falsifying the facts. This president does not pay attention to classified information; and if he happens to hear any, he does not believe it.
His aversion to reading, his lack of seriousness and the difficulty he has paying attention and listening to those who speak to him are well known. But now evidence has come to light of at least two fairly serious cases of where there has not only been willful ignorance of classified information that comes to the White House, but where his aides have been complicit in maintaining such ignorance.
According to very reliable press reports, Trump was told about the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan before Jan. 1. The Oval Office also got news of the bribes paid by Russian spies to the Taliban to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, but the president and his circle did not find out about it. The White House did not react in time to the pandemic despite having the information to do so and Trump continued to praise Vladimir Putin, speaking with the Russian president, calling for Russia to be reinstated in the Group of Seven industrial nations and even negotiated with the Taliban about withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Trump’s only source of information is television. This behavior has been confirmed by John Bolton, his former national security advisor, in his book “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” and analyzed psychologically by his niece, Mary Trump, in “Too Much and Never Enough.” The already extensive bibliography on Trump makes it possible to understand the reason for his many lies (22 per day, almost 20,000 so far in his presidency, according to The Washington Post). His niece interpreted Trump’s infantile and unhealthy personality: “He embraces cheating as a way of life.”