Days after bluntly declaring Donald Trump unfit to be commander in chief, President Obama warned the Republican nominee on Thursday to watch what he says after he gets the traditional pre-election classified briefings.
Obama told reporters in a rare press conference at the Pentagon that he would follow longstanding tradition and provide intelligence briefings to Trump and his rival, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“What I will say is they have been told these are classified briefings. And if they want to be president, they’ve got to start acting like a president. And that means being able to now receive these briefings and not spread them around,” the president said.
Obama blasted Trump on Monday as “unfit to serve as president” and pressured senior Republicans who have endorsed the brash entrepreneur to consider rescinding their support in light of frequent controversial or purely false statements.
“There has to come a point at which you say ‘enough,’” the president declared.
On Thursday, Obama said Trump qualified for classified briefings because “if somebody’s the Republican nominee for president, they need to get security briefings so that if they were to win, they are not starting from scratch in terms of being prepared for this office.”
Obama also ridiculed Trump’s contention that the November election may be “rigged” against him, comparing the former reality show star to a child unhappy he lost a game.
“The federal government does not run the election process,” the president said after a reporter asked about Trump’s allegation. “That’s ridiculous. That doesn’t make any sense.”
Obama underlined that states and localities run elections, while the federal government helps local governments ensure that voting machines are secure and enforces federal laws protecting voting rights.
“All of us as some points in our lives have played sports or maybe just played in a schoolyard, or a sandbox, and sometimes folks if they lose they complain that they got cheated,” he said. “But I’ve never heard of somebody complaining about being cheated before the game was over, or before the score was even tallied.
“My suggestion would be: Go out there and try to win the election,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s the American people’s decision. I have one vote.”
It was not clear when the two nominees would receive their classified briefings. President Harry Truman, who came to office unaware that America had successfully developed the atomic bomb, started the tradition in 1952. Past and present intelligence officials say that the information provided in those meetings is important but omits critical intelligence like sources and methods.
The sessions have already been the subject of political controversy. Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan has pointed to Clinton’s email controversy to argue that she is unworthy to receive the briefings. Trump’s unfiltered style and his fondness for Russian President Vladimir Putin have led Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid to say the GOP nominee should likewise be denied.