RNC communications director Sean Spicer said on Wednesday that while President-elect Donald Trump, who has eschewed regular intelligence briefings, is meeting once or twice daily with retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn for an “intel update.”
Spicer told reporters on a conference call Wednesday morning that Trump “is getting the TBD [sic] three times a week right now,” but suggested that his regular meetings with Flynn hold the same cachet.
“He is meeting with General Flynn on a daily basis to get an intel update so in some cases he is getting an intel briefing every single day, in some cases twice,” Spicer said. “So I think that it would be false to say that he is not getting an intel briefing every day. Every single day he is getting a briefing. Three times a week it’s the actual TBD [sic].”
Spicer argued in a subsequent interview with CNN’s Kate Bolduan that a briefing from Flynn is equivalent to an in-person meeting with official presidential intelligence briefers.
“Why wouldn’t he want to get it from the source?” Bolduan asked.
“He does get it from the source,” Spicer said. “He’s his national security advisor.”
“Michael Flynn gets the presidential daily briefing from the briefers and then Michael Flynn relays it to Donald Trump,” Bolduan pressed. “Why wouldn’t Donald Trump want to get it from the source?”
“I think that this is sort of a semantics thing,” Spicer replied.
Flynn accompanied Trump—then the Republican nominee—to his first classified intelligence briefing in September, where the retired lieutenant general reportedly interrupted intelligence officials so many times that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who was also present, had to intervene.
Trump has faced criticism for refusing to receive regular intelligence briefings. U.S. officials previously told Reuters that the President-elect received only one intelligence brief each week on average. CBS News reported that Trump had actively declined several intelligence briefings since the election, while Vice President-elect Mike Pence reportedly receives around six such briefings per week.
Flynn is also facing renewed scrutiny of his own handling of classified intelligence. According to U.S. Army documents obtained by the Washington Post through a Freedom of Information Act request and published Wednesday, a 2010 Army investigation had determined that Flynn “inappropriately shared” classified information with foreign officials in Afghanistan.
The Army did not take further action against Flynn, as the investigation concluded that he had not acted “knowingly” and “there was no actual or potential damage to national security as a result.”
The investigation itself still is classified, but the Washington Post cited former U.S. officials familiar with the matter who said Flynn was accused of sharing information about operations by the CIA and other agencies in Afghanistan.