President Trump is so consistently irritated by Russia talk that officials avoid discussing the country during the president’s daily intelligence briefings, The Washington Post reported Thursday — despite the fact that all U.S. intelligence agencies agree that the Kremlin launched a concerted disruption operation during the 2016 election.
“If you talk about Russia, meddling, interference — that takes the [briefing] off the rails,” a former intelligence official told the Post. In the event that officials do have to deliver Trump potentially upsetting information about Russia, they carefully structure their briefings in order to “soften the impact” of the information, the Post reported.
The issue, the Post explained, is that Trump feels that he cannot accept that Russia meddled in the 2016 election without invalidating his electoral victory:
Holding impromptu interventions in Trump’s 26th-floor corner office at Trump Tower, advisers […] sought to convince Trump that he could affirm the validity of the intelligence without diminishing his electoral win, according to three officials involved in the sessions. More important, they said that doing so was the only way to put the matter behind him politically and free him to pursue his goal of closer ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
[…] But as aides persisted, Trump became agitated. He railed that the intelligence couldn’t be trusted and scoffed at the suggestion that his candidacy had been propelled by forces other than his own strategy, message, and charisma. [The Washington Post]
Trump’s reluctance to hear damning information about Russia has forced officials to get creative when they try to make him take a stand against Putin. In one case, the Post reports, officials tried to convince Trump not to return Russian compounds seized by former President Barack Obama by presenting the issue through the familiar lens of real estate and briefly getting him to consider selling the properties for profit.
Read more about Trump’s Russia reticence at The Washington Post.