'This president reads': CIA Director Mike Pompeo defends Trump's unique approach to absorbing intelligence

  • CIA Director Mike Pompeo defended President Donald Trump's fitness for office amid scrutiny over the president's mental stability.
  • Pompeo said Trump avidly consumes briefings from the intelligence community, but admitted to reformatting them into a more visual style.
  • Trump has long defended his intelligence, and points to his massive well of personal successes as proof that he can be nothing less than very smart.


CIA Director Michael Pompeo has offered some insight into Donald Trump's unique way of absorbing intelligence briefs after bombshell book "Fire and Fury" raised questions about the US president's intelligence and mental stability.

Asked by Fox News' Chris Wallace on Sunday about reports that Trump will not even read one-page intelligence briefings, Pompeo pushed back.

"This president reads material that we provide to him, he listens closely to his daily briefing," said Pompeo, who added that former President Barack Obama chose not to take a daily intelligence briefing.

Pompeo has long said he speaks to Trump daily, specifically, about North Korea.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., holds a meeting with CIA Director nominee Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., in his Capitol office on Monday, Dec. 5, 2016.

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Mike Pompeo (L) is sworn in as CIA Director by Vice President Mike Pence (R) as wife Susan Pompeo (2nd L) looks on at Eisenhower Executive Office Building January 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. Pompeo was confirmed for the position by the Senate this evening.

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UNITED STATES - JUNE 28: Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., right, chairman of the Select Committee on Benghazi, conducts a news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center, June 28, 2016, to announce the Committee's report on the 2012 attacks in Libya that killed four Americans. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., also appears. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Representative Mike Pompeo, a Republican from Kansas and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director nominee for President-elect Donald Trump, swears in to a Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017. Pompeo is seeking to reassure senators that he can shift from an outspoken policymaker to an objective spy chief if confirmed.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., holds a meeting with CIA Director nominee Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., in his Capitol office on Monday, Dec. 5, 2016.

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Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS) arrives to testify before a Senate Intelligence hearing on his nomination of to be become director of the CIA at Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 12, 2017.

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U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (R) finishes swearing in Mike Pompeo, flanked by his wife Susan Pompeo, to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the vice president's ceremonial office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 23, 2017.

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Mike Pompeo gets a hug from supporter Jennifer O'Connor after arriving at the Sedgwick County Republican headquarters at Market Centre in Wichita, Kansas, on Tuesday, November 6, 2012.

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Adam Schiff (D-CA) left, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) center, and moderator Chuck Todd, right, appear on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015.

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U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for the director of the CIA, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) attends his confirmation hearing before the Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee on January 12, 2017 in Washington, DC. Mr. Pompeo is a former Army officer who graduated first in his class from West Point.

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Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) listens as Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) speaks during his confirmation hearing to be the director of the CIA before the Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee on January 12, 2017 in Washington, DC. Mr. Pompeo is a former Army officer who graduated first in his class from West Point.

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Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., speaks during the news conference before a group of House Republican freshmen walked to the Senate to deliver a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday, March 30, 2011. The letter called on the Senate to pass a long term continuing resolution with spending cuts.

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US Congressman Mike Pompeo (C), R-Kansas, sits in the dark after a power failure with US Senator Pat Roberts (L), a former Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and former US Senator Bob Dole (R), R-Kansas, as he prepares to testify before the Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, January 12, 2017, on his nomination to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the Trump administration.

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Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., center, nominee for director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is introduced by former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., right, and Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., during Pompeo's Senate Select Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing in Dirksen Building, January 12, 2017. The hearing was moved from Hart Building due to a peer outage.

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Incoming Trump administration cabinet secretary nominees including Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson (L-R), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director nominee Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary nominee James Mattis arrive for meetings at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 13, 2017.

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Mike Pompeo (2nd L), flanked by his wife Susan Pompeo (2nd R) and their son Nick Pompeo (R), signs his affidavit of appointment after being sworn in as director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (L) in Pence's ceremonial office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 23, 2017.

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In May, Pompeo himself said he had reworked intelligence briefings to include "killer graphics" as opposed to text and, on Sunday, stressed that despite the text-light approach, Trump absorbs the information.

"This president is an avid consumer of the work product that our team at the CIA produces and we do our best to convey that to him nearly every day," said Pompeo.

Trump is better known for watching TV than reading

The defense of Trump's reading habits by Pompeo came on the same day Axios reported that the president, who has said he wakes up as early as 5 a.m., now starts his day at 11 a.m. after three hours of "executive time" used to watch TV and browse Twitter.

Trump frequently tweets about the day's news stories, often before dawn. Though he claims not to watch CNN or other news networks he finds disagreeable, he always seems up to date on their coverage, and ready to dispute any reporting he disagrees with via a tweet.

Additionally, observers of Trump's twitter have noticed a feedback loop, whereby the early morning "Fox and Friends" TV show often reports good news about the Trump administration, and Trump either retweets it or mentions them.

Trump's intelligence offensive

But while Pompeo defended Trump's style of absorbing information, the president himself seems to have keyed in on the implication that reading is associated with intelligence, while TV is less so.

On Saturday, Trump tweeted that two of his "greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart," and that his victory against Hillary Clinton in 2016 should qualify him as a "very stable genius."

When Trump's intelligence has been questioned in the past, as it was after NBC reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called him a "moron," Trump has always responded strongly and heavily denied a deficiency. 

"If he did that," Trump said of Tillerson's reported "moron" quip, "I guess we'll have to compare IQ tests, and I can tell you who is going to win."

Another consistent theme in Trump's defense of his own mental fitness is brandishing his successes as a testament to his brilliance. Trump, is a multi-billionaire, has been a reality TV star for over a decade, and became president at the first time of trying.

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