Joe Biden blocks ‘erratic’ Donald Trump’s intel briefings as Mar-a-Lago is stripped of presidential trappings
US President Joe Biden said he would ban Donald Trump from receiving classified intelligence briefings because of his “erratic behaviour”, suggesting his predecessor could pose a security risk.
Outgoing US presidents have traditionally been extended the courtesy of ongoing access to high-level US intelligence, which offers them the ability to advise on sensitive issues.
The intelligence briefings are currently offered to all other living former presidents – Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama – on a regular basis.
But the sharing of intelligence briefings to former presidents is at the current commander-in-chief’s discretion.
In an interview with CBS News yesterday, Biden said he was concerned about the implications of handling sensitive information to Trump.
“What value is giving him an intelligence briefing? What impact does he have at all, other than the fact he might slip and say something?” he said.
Biden added his reluctance to allow Trump access to the briefings pre-dated the storming of the Capitol on January 6, citing his “erratic behaviour unrelated to the insurrection”.
Impeachment trial looms
The development comes ahead of a week unlike any other in US history, with Trump set to become the only president to face a second impeachment trial on Tuesday.
Efforts to convict him ultimately look destined to fail though, with less than half a dozen Republicans indicating they could vote with Democrats.
The vote needs 17 Republicans to turn on Trump to reach a two-thirds majority.
However, the proceedings will offer the American public the first comprehensive account from lawmakers of the events of January 6, which began with Trump urging thousands of his supporters to “fight” against Congress’ certification of Biden’s election victory and ended in a violent mob storming the seat of US government. The unrest left five people dead.
Trump was impeached for “incitement of insurrection” over his role in riling up the mob last month, with 10 Republicans joining the Democrats to pass the measure in the House of Representatives.
Democratic impeachment managers from the House will argue their case for barring Trump from future office when his trial begins this week.
The impeachment managers plan to use footage from the day to build their case, using clips from the former president’s speech to the crowd as well as videos taken by some rioters in which they declared they were acting on Trump’s behalf as they forcefully entered Congress.
While Trump is expected to avoid conviction, Democrats believe the testimony and first-hand accounts of the siege from members of Congress will offer the opportunity to preserve a public record of the attack for the Congressional Record.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, a former prosecutor, said the trial could have a lasting effect of informing the public, regardless of the outcome.
“A public trial serves a vital purpose,” he said. “What Donald Trump mobilised and emboldened and incited is an expression of domestic terrorism that the public needs to see and understand.”
Trump’s lawyers offered a preview of their defence strategy in a brief filed with the Senate last week in which they insisted the former president was merely exercising his right to free speech when he addressed his supporters and cast doubt on the election results.
“It is denied that President Trump incited the crowd to engage in destructive behaviour,” the lawyers wrote.
Many Republican senators have also questioned the legitimacy of conducting an impeachment trial after Trump has left office, arguing it is unconstitutional to hold the proceedings for a private citizen.
Democrats have rejected that suggestion, but the strong Republican support for the argument underscores the uphill battle Democrats face in securing the 67 votes needed to convict Trump.
Clouds over Mar-a-Lago
The former president will likely watch his own impeachment trial on television from Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Florida, where he will be surrounded by reminders that he is no longer the world’s most powerful man.
Until recently, passenger jets from nearby Palm Beach International Airport were banned from entering the airspace over the resort when the president was in residence.
But, as a private citizen, Trump now has no such protection from a nuisance that aggravated him so much he spent two decades suing the airport for $100 million.
A 50ft-diameter gleaming white presidential helipad on the Mar-a-Lago lawn is also about to be demolished – at the request of the local council. And his staff is now reduced to a small cadre of uber-loyal followers.
Margo Martin, a junior twenty-something aide in the White House press office, now heads communications for Trump’s office, which is run out of the resort.
Missives are occasionally fired off to journalists under a depiction of the Great Seal of the United States, featuring a bald eagle.
The former president has been spending time playing at his nearby Trump International Golf Club.
But, in a further setback, Palm Beach County is trying to cancel the lease for the land on which the club sits, for which Trump pays $122,234 (US$88,000) a month.
Now that planes can fly over Mar-a-Lago, local recreational pilots have taken to flying sky banners nearby, with giant letters spelling out “Pathetic Loser” and “Worst President Ever”.
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